PETALING JAYA: Ong Kian Ming believes that the results of the two by-elections last year are not an indication that three-cornered fights in the next general election will lead to a win for Barisan Nasional (BN).
He was referring to the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections in June last year following the deaths of the BN incumbents, former deputy minister Noriah Kasnon and Wan Muhammad Khairil Anuar Wan Ahmad in a helicopter crash in Sarawak, the month before.
Dispelling the assertion by many on the multi-cornered fights in both parliamentary seats, the DAP election strategist said the political landscape has changed drastically since the by-elections which BN won by a greater margin than they did in the general election in 2013.
“The political stakes for voters in by-elections are not very high. Voters know that they are not deciding the future of a state or federal government.
“Local issues become more important than state and national issues. Voter turnout is also significantly lower than in general elections,” Ong said, adding that the fact that the BN had performed better was thus not that surprising.
He added that there are also three key significant changes to the political landscape since June last year that will nullify the two by-election results as a benchmark for GE14.
“At the time, PPBM had not been formed yet. Also, Dr Mahathir Mohamad may have quit Umno but Muhyiddin had not been sacked by Umno.
“PAS had not yet broken off ties with PKR. PPBM had not joined Pakatan Harapan (PH) yet,” Ong said referring to the new opposition party formed by former Umno leaders late last year, and which joined the opposition coalition in March this year.
“Finally, the Pakatan Harapan leadership line-up had not been established.”
Choosing state and federal governments
He explained that aside from these major changes, a general election will generally see more voter focus on the bigger picture.
“I do not dispute that straight fights would be the ideal situation for BN, however, in a general election, voters have to choose who forms the next state and federal governments.
“It would be a mistake to assume that all those voters who supported PAS in past elections would continue to support PAS in the next general election.
“This is more so if PH sends the message that GE14 is a choice between supporting a BN government and a historic opportunity to change to an alternative coalition with a proven track record of governing two states for two terms,” Ong said.
He added in such a scenario, it is likely voters will not “waste” their vote on a third-party candidate which has no chance of forming the government at either the state or federal level.
Speaking on the chances of PH parties winning Selangor, especially withour PAS support which had won 15 state seats and four parliamentary seats in the last general election, Ong said, that is a factor that can be discounted as PAS’ political success in Selangor is relatively recent.
“Political observers tend to overestimate PAS’ overall support in Selangor but they forget that PAS’ electoral success in Selangor is a relatively recent phenomenon.
“PAS did not win a single parliament seat in Selangor from 1990 to 2004.
“Even in the 1999 Reformasi general election where PAS emerged as the largest opposition party in parliament and won control of the Terengganu state government (and retained the Kelantan state government), it only managed to win four state seats in Selangor.”
Non-Malay votes helped PAS
Ong, who is Serdang MP said that statistically, PAS does not even have majority Malay support in Selangor, as it was the non-Malay votes that helped it to win many seats.
“In the 2008 and 2013 general elections, PAS only managed to win 52.9% and 54.3% of the popular vote, respectively in the parliament seats it contested and 49.5% and 54.9% of the popular vote, respectively in the state seats it contested.
“The average Malay support for PAS in the seats it won was approximately 40%. This compares with an estimated 88% of Chinese and 68% of Indian support.
“These non-Malay voters are likely to abandon PAS in droves in GE14,” Ong said, adding that in GE14, PAS will be isolated as a lone party for the first time since 1986.
PAS was part of the Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (APU) coalition with Semangat 46 in 1990 and 1995, the Barisan Alternative in 1999 and 2004 and Pakatan Rakyat after the 2008 general election.
tags: Ong Kian Ming, DAP, FMT, Malaysia, Pakatan Harapan, BN, Barisan Nasional, general election, GE14, Selangor, by-election