What was shocking in the Tanjung Piai by-election verdict was not so much the victory of the BN candidate, but the majority obtained.
MCA proved that under the right circumstances, it might be able to obtain the support of the Chinese and support of the Malays.
It is not written off yet.
What really went wrong and why PH or PPBM could not perform, even with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad undertaking a personal campaign to the extent of writing a personal letter, remains unclear.
The victory was not so much the superior performance of BN or because of the political pact between Umno and PAS.
It was a by-election in which the Chinese wanted to teach the PH government and coalition an important lesson.
PH’s lacklustre performance since the general election victory last year, the government’s policy on Jawi calligraphy, the slow pace of progress on recognising the Unified Education Certificate (UEC), the Malay Dignity Congress and others were hurtful to the Chinese and non-Malays in general.
It was not that BN was superior in terms of strategy but rather the election result was an indication of the pent-up anger and frustration with the PH.
I think it was a protest vote against PH to get things in order before a heavier punishment is inflicted nation-wide.
In fact election results by polling districts reveal that both non-Malay and Malay votes swung in favour of Wee Jeck Seng, the MCA candidate, as a protest against the PH government or coalition.
PAS might have supported the MCA candidate due to its political pact with Umno, but this was not really instrumental in getting Malay support for the BN Chinese candidate.
Malay support was already there for Umno, long before the political contest. The late entry of PAS, on the side of Umno and BN, might have slightly increased Malay support.
It was the poor performance of the PH government, in not only addressing the reforms promised but its engagement with Umno and PAS to wean away Malay support, that alienated the non-Malays.
Both Malays and non-Malays, particularly the Chinese, threw their weight behind MCA to register their dissatisfaction with PH.
The non-Malays, particularly the Chinese and to some extent the Malays, will continue to cast their protest votes in future unless, of course, PH really changes its present course.
This is the fourth consecutive victory by the opposition in the Tanjung Piai by-election.
There are important lessons to be learnt in the Tanjung Piai election debacle by PH and its component parties.
PH should stop being champions of race and religion by focusing on the implementation of what was promised to Malaysians in the PH GE14 manifesto.
PH cannot fight the opposition by staying on the same terrain, but has to chose a platform of governance based on addressing the myriad needs of Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion.
The recent use, or misuse, of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), in detaining 12 Malaysian Indians for alleged links with the defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also did not endear the government to many sections of Malaysians.
The time has come for PH leaders to take stock of things to understand why there is so much groundswell against the coalition and how to reverse the trend.
P Ramasamy is deputy chief minister II of Penang.
The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.