Making sense of Tanjung Piai’s result

The loss was not a surprise, but the huge majority votes that turned against PH registered almost a 9 on the Richter magnitude scale

pic by BERNAMA

THE Tanjung Piai by-election is done and dusted, but the implications and speculations linger on. Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng (picture) won the parliamentary seat for the third time with a landslide majority of more than 15,000 votes against Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) candidate Kairmaine Sardini.

It was a stunning victory for Wee, considering the huge majority garnered in an area that sits on the southernmost edge of Asia.

The loss was not a surprise, but the huge majority votes that turned against PH registered almost a nine on the Richter magnitude scale.

PH chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad admitted on Monday that the defeat was worse than what he had predicted. He was expecting a 2000-vote majority siding with Barisan Nasional (BN).

The loss has analysts scurrying to find the answer — what went wrong with PH?

The less than encouraging attendance at political rallies organised by PH had been early indicators of a possible defeat.

But the margin of the loss had somewhat shook the ground that PH stood. It is no longer a wake-up call. Dr Mahathir said: “A thorough, honest post-mortem to determine the reason behind the loss” is required.

Some people had pointed to PH’s unfulfilled promises as one of the reasons behind the almost massacre at Tanjung Piai. A few PH ministers were made easy target like pandering to private developers instead of the people.

Some attributed the defeat to PH administration’s misplaced agenda of wooing right-wing groups, creating unhappiness among the moderates.

As one social media user pointed out: Nobody, be it from the liberal or conservative groups, wanted to say that maybe, just a small probability, that the loss was because of them.

BN did go to town with the victory, reminding the people of by-elections’ victory score — (BN 4 and PH 5) — almost a reminiscent of the late Tan Sri P Ramlee’s movie “Nujum Pak Belalang”.

Internally with PH, the loss had wide-ranging effects. The blame game within coalition partners of the alliance born from the passion to oust a kleptocratic government began to surface on social media. Some had called for Dr Mahathir to step down as the country’s prime minister (PM) following the defeat.

It is not the first time for the 94-year-old to be asked to step down in his over five decades as a politician.

Victory does create excitement. Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has called for the government of the day to dissolve the Dewan Rakyat, allowing for the 15th General Election (GE). The present government has more than 43 months to dissolve the Parliament.

But the question is whether the massive loss in Tanjung Piai was due to internal bickering within PH? Or is it the works of certain groups within the alliance to expedite the agreed resignation of Dr Mahathir?

In the days leading up to the Nov 16 by-election, there were rumours calling for members of a certain political party to reject Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s candidate Karmaine. But these are rumours.

However, there is a Malay saying, “kalau tak ada angin, masakan pokok bergoyang”. In politics, anything is possible. The thirst for power often pales other obsessions.

News of infightings with PH component parties have been dominating headlines. Several missteps by PH representatives on issues relating to race and religion offered a strong leverage to the Opposition.

Those issues have overshadowed the government’s efforts to bring the nation back on track. Even for voters in Tanjung Piai, works in progress is not even a consideration.

The court cases and revelations related to past leaders mean little or nothing.

Eighteen months since winning the GE14, Dr Mahathir found himself being asked about his succession plan more than any other times.

Some sections argued that there should be a definite time frame for him to do so, as investors and the people need to know about the country’s future direction.

But a PM with a definite timeline to move out from Putrajaya would be a powerless leader.

It is also easy to blame each PH’s defeat as Dr Mahathir’s failure. It has become a “Malaysian culture” to throw someone under the bus, though figuratively.

Dr Mahathir may have his missteps. PH must have angered voters.

The about 42% Chinese voters in Tanjung Piai are dissatisfied with PH. The matrimony of Umno and PAS gave the advantage to Malay majority areas. It is a staunch reminder, Malaysians “mudah lupa” on what happened 18 months ago. And PH has a huge task to correct the perceptions or the whole alliance could end up under the bus.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.