13 October 2009

A tocsin for Pakatan Rakyat


Mohd Isa Abdul Samad (C), the candidate for Malaysia's ruling National Front coalition, celebrates with Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin (R) and chief minister of the state of Negeri Sembilan, Mohammad Hasan, after winning the Bagan Pinang state by-election in Port Dickson - Reuters pictures

It is a good thing for Pakatan Rakyat to suffer a great defeat in the recent Bagan Pinang by-election as it can awake Pakatan Rakyat and make PAS to carry out a self-reflection. The so-called “election myth” of Pakatan Rakyat and its leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has collapsed, showing that the situation is still uncertain, thus both BN and Pakatan Rakyat must work harder.

Bagan Pinang has always been a BN stronghold. The great victory is not just an icing on the cake, but it has as well boosted the morale of the coalition. Particularly, UMNO is going to hold its General Assembly this week. It is indeed a big gift for UMNO and its President Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, as well as an honour for all UMNO delegates.

Many people have predicted the victory but they did not expect the great influence and affinity of Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad in Bagan Pinang. Meanwhile, the strategic weaknesses of Pakatan Rakyat and PAS allowed him to gain a phenomenal victory.

According to local analyses, the key of UMNO victory was “nostalgia votes” instead of military votes. BN gained 3521 while PAS received 601 postal votes. However, Isa won with a 5435 majority. Even if PAS was able to get 500 more military votes, it was still unable to win. Therefore, the key lied in Chinese, Malay and Indian votes.

PAS was greatly defeated by BN in all of the ballot boxes, including the three boxes it won last year. A preliminary analysis showed that more than 60% of Chinese and Indian voters supported PAS in the 8 March general elections but 30% of them supported BN this time. Meanwhile, 20% of Malays who supported PAS in the last general elections shifted to support BN in the recent by-election. Nostalgic and other factors have defeated money political issues.

Chinese and Indian votes are the key for Pakatan Rakyat to gain five state regimes and turn down BN's two-thirds majority in the 8 March general elections. The remarkable shift in support is a tocsin for Pakatan Rakyat, particularly the Indian community. BN used the “divide and rule” strategy in which the Makkal Sakti Party was formed to garner Indian votes as MIC has been losing its influence.

The Chinese community has not been divided as seriously as the Indian community. Even it was less dependent on MCA, which was facing a party crisis, this time, UMNO could still gain support from Chinese voters. Would this inspire UMNO leaders to gain Chinese votes by themselves in the future through external organisations or other strategies?

For PAS, it received 1519 less votes this time compared to the general elections last year. It showed that PAS' influence is still very weak in Centre and Southern Peninsular. Particularly, it is lack of grass-root organisations. PAS won its first state seat in Negeri Sembilan in the general elections last year. If the party wishes to strike BN's strongholds in Southern Peninsular, it should not ignore the grass-root organisations. Pakatan Rakyat cannot rely on supporters from other states to win, especially in some constituencies, where BN possesses a strong network.

Non-Malay voters supported PAS last year based on the then political sentiments. If PAS continues to put forward its theocratic concept, it is going to affect Pakatan Rakyat.

Isa has won honour for UMNO and all the party members will be grateful and applaud him in the UMNO General Assembly. It will be the chips for Isa to return to the mainstream. However, is the return of Isa a starting point for the revitalisation of UMNO, or an obstacle for its reform? We can only wait and see. (By LIM SUE GOAN/Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE/Sin Chew Daily)


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