KOTA KINABALU: An analyst has attributed the low voter turnout in the Sandakan by-election yesterday to the timing of the polls as it fell in between two significant dates.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) senior lecturer Lee Kuok Tiung noted the by-election, which was won by DAP’s Vivian Wong, was fixed between the Chinese festival of Ching Ming and the school mid-year break.
The Ching Ming festival, which was celebrated last April 4, is known as the tomb-sweeping day or ancestor’s day for the Chinese, which is a day to honour deceased ancestors.
“Last month, we just had Ching Ming and there are school holidays at the end of May (from May 25 to June 9). So, not many outstation voters decided to return to vote at this time,” he told FMT.
However, he maintained that the results would still be the same, with DAP winning, even if the voter turnout had been higher.
“From the early beginning, DAP always had the advantage and was expected to win. PBS had always been the underdog although they were capable of creating an upset,” Lee said.
He also believed that voters who chose not to return had influenced their friends and family members back home to vote for PH.
DAP’s Vivian Wong, who garnered 16,012 votes, won the Sandakan seat with a majority of 11,521 votes over Linda Tsen, from PBS, her closest rival in the by-election.
Voter turnout was 54.4%.
Lee said Pakatan Harapan’s vigorous campaign also made a difference for Vivian, adding they fielded an “all-star” team, comprising top leaders and ministers who came to Sandakan.
“I can’t remember how many times Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng flew to Sandakan within that two weeks’ of campaigning. Warisan also went all out to help Vivian win this by-election,” he said.
Lee also believes the Muslim Bumiputera vote, which according to him was once Barisan Nasional’s fixed deposit, had swung in favour of PH this time around.
‘PAS may have cost PBS some votes’
Meanwhile, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (Sabah UiTM) Tony Paridi Bagang added that the involvement of present and past Umno leaders and PAS might have significantly cost PBS in this by-election.
He said some leaders, such as former Dewan Rakyat speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia, were seen as liabilities, adding that the latter was one of those against PH’s proposed amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution, which failed in Parliament.
He contended that without the presence of big names among its ranks, PBS had to depend on support from BN leaders such as former prime minister Najib Razak, who made a last-minute appearance, and also Umno acting president Mohamad Hasan.
“This led to the PBS candidate Linda Tsen being seen as incompetent.
“The role of the media in regularly highlighting the BN and Najib scandals also reminded the people to go against corrupt leaders or parties,” Bagang said.
“PAS pledging support to PBS also resulted in the creation of fear among non-Muslim voters … fear that PAS ideology might creep in.”
He said another factor for PH’s win was “development politics”, adding they managed to convince voters they would bring more development as a government compared with BN that had been in power for decades.
“Now that they have won, it is an increase in trust deposit for PH,” referring to the coalition’s previous by-election defeats in Semenyih, Cameron Highlands and Rantau in the peninsula.
“This victory is also another recognition for women’s representation in Parliament,” Bagang said.
In the by-eleciton yesterday, there was a 17% increase in support from the Muslim Bumiputera polling districts. Semporna Warisan’s campaign strategist Donald Hanapi attributed this to assistance from Warisan in the campaigning.
He said they had worked hard to gain support from the Muslim-majority areas, including Kampung Sim Sim and Pulau Berhala, which Wong lost in GE14.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had admitted last night that Warisan had a big hand in helping to garner such support, resulting in victory in all 19 polling districts in Sandakan.