PETALING JAYA: Deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s conditional discharge over graft charges hardly had any effect on the outcome of the Pulai parliamentary and Simpang Jeram state by-elections yesterday, say analysts.
On Monday, Umno president Zahid was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) on 47 charges involving corruption, criminal breach of trust (CBT), and money laundering.
The DNAA saw the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) criticised from both sides of the political divide, activists, political commentators and netizens, and renewed calls for the reform of the legal system.
Ahmad Fauzi Hamid of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) said that while Zahid’s DNAA played a part in the polls’ outcome, it was not a deciding factor in the polls – both of which Pakatan Harapan (PH) won.
“I would say the DNAA definitely had an impact, although not to the extent that we have seen in Malay belt areas,” he said.
Noting the large number of non-Malay voters in both the Pulai parliamentary and Simpang Jeram state constituencies, Fauzi also highlighted the pro-PH stance of the state.
“It is known that the Johor sultan is generally supportive of the policies expounded by the unity government and Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim,” he added.
Another analyst, James Chin of the University of Tasmania, said that the results of yesterday’s polls showed that Zahid’s DNAA was not a key issue.
Chin highlighted that the Pulai parliamentary and Simpang Jeram state seats were both previously held by Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub, who died in July.
“Whenever an elected representative passes away, there is bound to be sympathy votes (for their party) after that.
“So, the public should not use these by-elections as a barometer to judge (whether Zahid’s DNAA was a factor),” he said.
Zahid was accused of embezzling millions of ringgit from his foundation, Yayasan Akalbudi, and accepting bribes for various projects during his tenure as the home minister between 2013 and 2018.
The application for the DNAA was made by the prosecution despite the High Court ruling in January last year that there was a prima facie case against him.
Yesterday, PH’s Suhaizan Kaiat beat PN’s Zulkifli Jaafar for the Pulai parliamentary seat while PH’s Nazri Abdul Rahman won the Simpang Jeram state seat after defeating PN’s Dr Mazri Yahya.