PETALING JAYA: Two analysts attribute Pakatan Harapan (PH)’s heavy loss in the Tanjung Piai by-election to ongoing infighting among the coalition’s parties, adding that “protest votes” had contributed to Barisan Nasional (BN)’s big win.
Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya and Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said that a major cause of the conflict was the dispute over a successor to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the transfer of power.
Azman urged Mahathir to state a clear succession plan before handing over the reins to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, saying the issue was the main reason for internal conflicts in PH.
He told FMT that Mahathir seemed to be unwilling to hand over the top post to Anwar, generating discontent among DAP and PKR grassroots against the PPBM chairman.
“It’s time for Mahathir to announce the transfer of power with more specificity so that the people are more prepared. Delaying the date of the handing over of power will cause doubts to arise among the people as well as among PH supporters,” Azman said.
He said there was a perception among Chinese voters that PPBM was trying to wrest control of PH despite having fewer seats in the coalition, while Malay voters were wary of DAP gaining a hold on the government which could cause them to be marginalised.
Azman said BN’s landslide victory showed that the national unity charter of Umno and PAS did not isolate non-Malays, adding that this will worry the PH top leadership.
However Malaysia’s political dynamic was ever-evolving with time and various situations.
“The Chinese knew that this by-election win would not change the position of the state government while Putrajaya would remain under PH. This is a mini-referendum by the Chinese to PH on many issues that they are dissatisfied with.
“To say that the people’s support is shifting to the opposition is not fully true because it’s only a by-election. But this is an early warning and ‘red alert’ to PH and the prime minister to perform better.”
Azmi told FMT that PH had lost around 7,000 votes to “protesting” constituents. The number of votes for Wee Jeck Seng was nearly equal to the total obtained by BN and PAS in the general election last year.
“This can be explained by the turnout of only 73% of voters compared to the 86% turnout last year. The 13% absentees represent 7,000 plus voters, which is where PH lost most of their support.
“If PH does not rectify or stop the infighting which occurs in full public view, then I foresee that the PH government will be facing the wrath of the people — with or without by-elections.”