Defeat won’t affect Anwar’s position, says PH election chief

Political pundits had speculated that a defeat would be an obstacle towards Anwar becoming prime minister.

RANTAU: The defeat of PKR’s candidate in the Rantau by-election tonight will not backfire on PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim or affect his political future and leadership skills, said Pakatan Harapan election director Aminuddin Harun.

Speaking to reporters as the vote counting came to an end, Aminuddin said the by-election was not a fight between Anwar and Mohamad Hasan, who won with a 4,510 vote majority, but between Dr Streram Sinnasamy and Mohamad.

The Negeri Sembilan menteri besar said Anwar had campaigned his best as party president and effectively fulfilled his role in campaigning for his chosen candidate, Streram.

“Many things need to be improved (on our part),” Aminuddin said. “We recognise the decision of the rakyat and we will study the voting trend.” He noted that the majority secured by Mohamad (Tok Mat) “didn’t increase that much from GE13”.

Political observers had speculated before the by-election that a defeat would indirectly be a deterrent for Anwar’s expectations of becoming prime minister as is expected in the near future.

A victory for PKR would prove to naysayers – even within PH – that he still commanded the respect of many.

Mohamad won with 10,397 votes tonight, beating Streram, who garnered 5,887 votes. Independent candidates Malar Rajaram (83) and Mohd Nor Yassin (79) lost their RM5,000 deposits.

Aminuddin also alluded to Chinese and Indian voters – who form almost 50% of the electorate – not turning out in droves to vote, saying this will be studied as well in PH’s post-mortem.

He said: “It shows that the Indians, specifically, do not have confidence in ‘one of their own’ as their new state representative.”

Other voters, especially civil servants, “might be just too comfortable” with BN, given that the seat had always been represented by a BN candidate like Mohamad.

Anwar said in a statement tonight that the results will be a reminder to PH leaders to give the “necessary attention” to the cost of living and the people’s economic woes.

“I am confident that PH will rise up again after getting public support (in this way),” he said.

He thanked the PH and PKR election machineries for their support, “maturity and their good example” during the campaign.

On claims that PH’s defeat came about from public discontent with Pakatan’s failure to fulfil its election promises, Aminuddin again said this will be studied in detail soon.

Aminuddin was asked about negative public perception of Streram being from Klang and not someone who understood Rantau or, being Indian, and unable to defend the rights of Muslims.

He said the question simply did not arise as the state government, under his administration, had always helped the Malays. “He was our GE14 candidate,” he added, “and Anwar said we will fulfil our promise”.

Mohamad was declared the winner of the seat at last May’s general election after Streram, his sole rival, was denied entrance into the nomination centre to file his papers. The Election Court later overturned Mohamad’s election following an appeal by Streram.

On claims that there was internal sabotage with PH’s election machinery and that led to PH’s defeat tonight as well, Aminuddin said this will be looked into and action will be taken if necessary against them.

Streram was not here tonight. Aminuddin said he had gone back home, adding he deserved a good rest after campaigning for two weeks. “Perhaps he will issue a statement tomorrow,” he said.

Aminuddin spoke to the press at the PH command centre in Bandar Ekar Rantau. Outside, a crowd of no more than 50 had gathered, watching the results trickle in. However, the projector was switched off before all the results were announced, and the people dispersed quickly afterwards.

The by-election is the seventh to be held after GE14. Pakatan Harapan won in Sungai Kandis, Seri Setia, Balakong, and Port Dickson while Barisan Nasional took Cameron Highlands and Semenyih.