The result of the recent Tanjung Piai by-election cannot be seen as a people’s referendum that rejects the government of today.
Calling for Parliament to be dissolved just because the incumbent coalition has lost in the Tanjung Piai by-election is premature on the part of the opposition. The ruling coalition still commands the majority in the Dewan Rakyat, unless lawmakers now start switching sides and reduce the number of MPs in the ruling coalition.
Political parties have won and lost in many past by-elections. There’s no guarantee that they will win or lose again when a general election is held. There have been many cases in the past where candidates who won in by-elections lost when it came to the general election.
It’s not the first time voters had rejected PH in a by-election. PH candidates have been rejected previously in the by-elections held at Cameron Highlands, Semenyih and Rantau. Out of nine by-elections held after the last general election in 2018, PH has won five and the opposition four.
Many may have the opinion that it was more of a “protest” vote just because of some unfavourable actions taken and policies laid out by the government that did not favour them.
The euphoria felt by the opposition after winning a few by-elections cannot be made the touchstone to gauge the outcome in a general election. There are many factors to consider in a general election as compared with a by-election. It’s the norm for voters to vote for the opposition in a by-election to give a jolt to the ruling coalition. This is more of a wake up call for the ruling party to perform better or else lose in the general election.
Voters will usually look at a wider angle when it comes to a general election as they prefer a stable, trustworthy government more than anything else. They prefer not to rock the boat if on the whole the incumbent government is doing well.
The ruling coalition has another three and half years before it needs to dissolve Parliament and call for a general election. Within that period the ruling coalition has to prove that it’s worth giving it another chance.
Even after losing four by-elections within a year and eight months after winning the 14th general election, PH’s government position does not appear to be shaky.
So, calling for Parliament to be dissolved is immature.
Importantly, in the remaining three years and four months, the government should do more to gain the support of the people. As a new government, it is acknowledged that PH has its weaknesses and shortcomings here, but time must be given to the coalition to show its effectiveness as a government and fulfil promises to the people.
PH may see a power transition before the next general election, as agreed by PH leaders. Whoever succeeds the present prime minister has to convince voters that the government will continue to serve the people and bring reforms to the country and that it is a workable coalition.
Losing in four out of nine by-elections no doubt calls for some soul searching but it’s too early to say that the current government has lost the trust of the people. Only the next general election will determine whether the people have or don’t have faith in PH to lead the country.
Moaz Nair is a reader of FMT
The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of FMT