Malaysia: Politics Will Continue As Usual Now The KKB Byelection Is Over – OpEd 


No sign of any protest votes against the government

The awaited Selangor state byelection in the seat of Kuala Kubu Baharu was completed on May 11 with the Democratic Action Party candidate Pang Sock Tao retaining the seat for the party, after the death of 3 term member Lee Kee Hiong, who passed away last March. 

Pang received 14,000 votes to her main opponent Bersatu’s Khairul Azhari Sauf, who received 10,131 votes. This gave Pang a 3,869 vote majority, just a couple of hundred votes lower than Lee with 4,119 in the 2022 state election. Independent Eris Nyau Ke Xin received 188 votes and Parti Rakyat Malaysia candidate Hafizah Zainuddin received 152 votes, where both lost their deposits. 

There were 40,226 registered voters in Kuala Kubu Baharu, where the turnout was 61.51 percent, 7.74 percent down on the 2022 state election, where 69.25 percent of registered voters cast their ballots. 

Little sign of any protest vote

There was little doubt that the DAP candidate Pang, the special affairs officer for the minister of housing and local government Nga Kor Ming would win the seat. Prior to the byelection, pundits like Dennis Ignatius and P. Ramasamy called for voters to make a protest vote against the federal government, even though this was a state seat. However, that didn’t happen as DAP’s Pang actually slightly increased Pakatan Harapan’s share of the vote by 2.81 percent. 

The drop in the turnout rate from 69.25 percent in the 2022 state election to 61.51 percent in the Kuala Kubu Baharu byelection could be hardly called a protest, as turnout rates are often lower in byelections in comparison to state and federal election voting. Voters working outside the seat may not bother travelling back home to vote in a byelection. 

A significant drop in voter turnout was a real potential danger for Pakatan Harapan, but this didn’t eventuate. Perikatan Nasional did increase their share of the vote by 2.07 percent, but this mainly came from the absence of any MUDA candidate, who stood in the 2022 state election. However, slightly more votes spilled over to Pang. 

Many commentators thought this would be a very close election, with Pakatan just coming through. This never eventuated. 

What are the ‘takes’ of the byelection?

The byelection result indicates the strength of the DAP in its ‘support base’, taking Kuala Kubu Baharu as an example. On the reverse side the result indicates the difficulties Perikatan Nasional (PN) has in mixed seats. The Byelection tells us nothing about PKR and UMNO. Prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was conspicuously absent during the campaign in Kuala Kubu Baharu. Thus, it can only be speculated whether his absence was a positive or negative. 

We will all have to wait to see how PKR and UMNO fare in another place, at another time. 

Could have Perikatan Nasional performed better with a PAS candidate. Highly doubtful in a mixed seat where Malays make up 47.63 percent of the demographics of the seat. Polling should have told the PN strategists that Kuala Kubu Baharu would not be winnable. PN should not have even bothered to contest the seat, unless they had data to the contrary. 

Perhaps the winner of the day was Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari. This could have been a poorer result for the unity government. Amirudin was at the right place, at the right time. 

Although the relatively high turnout for a state byelection was positive for the ‘unity government’, Anwar doesn’t obtain any hero status from the result. However, the result will shore up Royal support for him and the ‘unity government’, as it will with GPS in Sarawak. 

There is now more confidence that PH and UMNO together can pull-off the next general election. The downside to this result is with this good result, Anwar may take the ‘I told you so’ approach, rather than reflecting upon how PH could do better. 

Its most likely, the ‘unity government’ will continue with business as usual without making any changes to what they are doing. 

For PN, the ‘green wave’ mythology appears to have reached its height. Now things can only go backwards unless they can continue to inspire new voters to join the fray. This is PN’s mission from today, looking at how PN can gain more supporters in mixed seats. For PN this will not be an easy thing to do, and its great protection for Pakatan. 

Although some local issues came out in the campaign, the bottom line was party affiliation. It looks like with the polarization of the electorate, race-based identity politics will continue to be the norm in Malaysian politics. The win for DAP has psychologically bolstered PH-UMNO.  They can give PN a good run for the money. 

With the status quo held, tomorrow its back to business as usual. 

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