Low tide in PD not good for Anwar’s image, say analysts

PETALING JAYA: The upcoming Port Dickson by-election could see a low voter turnout like the three by-elections held since the May polls, says an analyst following yesterday’s announcement that the seat was vacated for PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim to make a parliamentary comeback.

Kamarul Zaman Yusoff said the challenge for PKR now was to ensure a higher turnout than in Sungai Kandis, Seri Setia and Balakong, three Selangor state constituencies which went to the polls again this year following the deaths of their assemblymen.

All three saw record low turnouts – 49.5% in Sungai Kandis, 44% in Seri Setia and 39% in Balakong – leading many analysts to conclude that voters were still weary from the historic May 9 polls.

But Kamarul said a low turnout in Port Dickson, which will act as a launchpad for Anwar’s eventual rise to prime ministership, could expose him to ridicule.

“It will allow the opposition to make fun of the government, as if Anwar’s presence has no huge impact,” he told FMT.

Or, he added, it could be interpreted as an indication that voters were unhappy with a by-election being forced on them again just several months after the general election.

Yesterday, Port Dickson MP Danyal Balagopal Abdullah said he was stepping down to give way to Anwar.

Danyal won the seat for PKR with 36,225 votes, defeating Barisan Nasional’s VS Mogan (18,515 votes) and PAS’ Mahfuz Roslan (6,594 votes).

Under Pakatan Harapan’s deal reached before the May polls, Anwar will take over from Dr Mahathir Mohamad, becoming the eighth prime minister.

But this depends on whether the PKR leader can make a parliamentary comeback.

Analyst Wong Chin Huat of Penang Institute, meanwhile, offered a different view.

He said voter turnout would not be an issue due to political fatigue.

But he agreed that the Port Dickson by-election would be different, not only because it was deliberate, but also because its outcome could have an impact on the country’s future leadership.

“Those by-elections don’t change anything, but this will,” he said, referring to the three earlier by-elections in Selangor.

“Those by-elections were tragically inevitable but this is self-triggered.”

He said the Port Dickson by-election would be a mini referendum on Anwar, and that from then on, the once-jailed politician would have to display statesmanship.

“Anwar needs to convince Mahathir and Malaysians of his constructive and complementary roles in the two years of transition,” he added.