TAIPING, 8 April 2009: PAS got a lower share of the Malay Malaysian vote in Bukit Gantang but won the parliamentary by-election thanks to a higher voter turnout and votes from Chinese Malaysians.
Of the Malay Malaysian vote, PAS got a 43% share, while the Barisan Nasional (BN) obtained 57%. Chinese Malaysians, on the other hand, voted overwhelmingly for PAS, which received a 75% share this time, as compared with 64% last year.
Voter turnout was at 75.1% for this by-election, as compared to 72.6% last year.
Asmuni Awi (Pic by Raj Kumar, courtesy of
theSun) PAS by-elections operations director Asmuni Awi released these figures today, based on the party’s preliminary analysis of polling data.
In terms of total number of votes received, PAS saw an increase of 1,845 votes as compared with that of the 2008 general election, while BN votes only increased by around 600.
PAS performed well in polling districts where voter ethnicity was mixed. But BN had the advantage in districts where Malay Malaysians formed over 70% of voters.
Asmuni, who is also Perak PAS deputy commissioner, said the 43% share of the Malay Malaysian vote — down from 47% last year — was what the party had targeted. He said of this percentage, more were urban Malay Malaysian votes, with rural Malay Malaysian votes largely going to BN.
The party’s share of the Indian Malaysian vote, however, dipped by 4% to 60% this by-election.
He attributed the overwhelming Chinese Malaysian support for PAS to the party’s message that Islam treated all races and religions fairly.
“People have seen evidence of this in the 10 months of Pakatan Rakyat’s rule of Perak. Chinese [Malaysians] are less apprehensive of PAS now. We are no longer seen as overly theological or ideological. We have a lot of professionals in the party,” Asmuni said.
Breakdown of state seats
Results according to the three state seats in Bukit Gantang showed that PAS did well in predominantly Chinese Malaysian polling districts in Kuala Sepetang, and in mixed-race districts in Changkat Jering and Trong.
Kuala Sepetang and Changkat Jering were won by Parti Keadilan Rakyat in the general election last year, while Trong is a BN stronghold. Changkat Jering’s assemblyperson Mohd Osman Jailu has since become an independent.
In Kuala Sepetang, PAS won six out of 13 polling districts, compared with five last year. Kuala Sepetang is home to a Chinese Malaysian fishing community that is staunchly opposition. Geographically, two other polling districts in this seat also cut into predominantly Malay Malaysian areas near Changkat Jering, where support for the opposition is strong.
A Chinese Malaysian voter whose family has been living and fishing in Kuala Sepetang
for three generations (Pic by Raj Kumar, courtesy of theSun)
In Trong, PAS won five out of 14 polling districts, a decline from seven last year. But it tied with the BN in the number of votes received in one district, Pasir Hitam Trong. In four of the districts won, Malay Malaysians comprised 30% to 60% of voters there.
In Changkat Jering, PAS won seven out of 11 polling districts, down one from last year. Asmuni attributed the lower support to BN candidate Ismail Saffian’s “local boy” factor here.
“He has family members and relatives in Changkat Jering who are PAS members or supporters. When we visited them during the campaign period, they were silent on who they would vote for. So we take it that blood runs thicker than water,” Asmuni said.
Of the more than 2,000 outstation voters, Asmuni said 700 of them who were PAS supporters had returned to vote.
BN is the problem
Asmuni, like the victorious Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamluddin last night, said the result was a referendum on how voters felt about the BN’s takeover of Perak and Datuk Seri Najib Razak as the new prime minister.
Nizar is beseiged by journalists during the press conference to announce his victory, held on the night of 7 April
But others feel the reason the BN lost goes far deeper, one that involves a deep disconnect between Umno and the rest of the coalition with the electorate.
People’s Progressive Party president Datuk M Kayveas believes the BN lost not so much because of people’s rejection of Najib, but because they were still unhappy with BN.
“People are still in the 2008 ‘tsunami’ mood. The by-election cannot be about Najib because the reforms he has announced will take time before they are felt on the ground.
Kayveas “The BN has not reached out effectively to people. Our campaign trends need to change; we cannot depend on giving out goodies. We can’t win anymore based on campaign promises as people now look at larger issues of policy, justice and fairness,” Kayveas said when met at the vote-tallying centre before the by-election results were announced last night. He was the only BN leader who showed up.
Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research director Ibrahim Suffian agrees that BN has a “branding problem”. The coalition still relies on a race-based, power-sharing approach while Pakatan Rakyat has moved ahead in tapping the sentiments of Malaysians yearning for equality.
“The 2008 general election showed that the BN brand is being challenged. In particular, Umno’s reputation has been severely dented because of the party’s integrity problems,” Ibrahim said in a phone interview.