The Tanjung Piai by-election saw support from the Chinese for Pakatan Harapan plunge by more than half compared to GE14.
IT was almost midnight and workers were seen bringing down the banners in the Tanjung Piai constituency last Saturday.
The politicians and locals alike were just tòo eager to get back to their routine after two weeks of campaigning in the by-election.
But this is no ordinary by-election though – the worst ever for a ruling coalition, losing more than 15,000 votes to the Opposition.
Even the Prime Minister expressed shock, saying he only expected Pakatan Harapan to lose by 2,000 margin.
Barisan Nasional’s Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng from MCA beat Pakatan’s Karmaine Sardini from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), of which Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is chairman.
Jeck Seng polled 25,466 votes to Karmaine’s 10,380.
MCA now has two parliamentarians; party president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong who holds the Ayer Hitam seat was the party’s sole MP in the general election last year.
“It shows the people have confidence in MCA and Barisan, ” says Dr Wee on the landslide victory in Tanjung Piai.
“We now have a louder voice in Parliament, ” he adds, noting how having a strong Opposition is important for check and balance on the government.
Dr Wee says the victory will also further boost the party’s revival after its worst defeat ever in GE14.
Party secretary- general Datuk Chong Sin Woon says he expects a huge turnout at the party’s annual general meeting this coming Sunday to hear the president ‘s speech on the way forward following the big victory.
“All Barisan parties worked very hard, and we came up with new campaign strategies which are now proven to be effective. We expected to win, but the huge majority is indeed a pleasant surprise, ” Chong says.
It is certainly no small feat that Barisan could reverse the tide, capturing 67% of the Chinese votes and more than 70% Malay and Indian votes.
In GE14, Jeck Seng a two-term MP there lost the seat to Pakatan’s Datuk Dr Md Farid Md Rafik by 524 votes.
MCA only got 32% of Chinese votes then.
The by-election came after Dr Farid died on Sept 21.
Many political observers saw Pakatan losing more than Tanjung Piai.
In fact, the by-election is widely seen as a referendum on Pakatan.
Post GE14 saw much unhappiness on the ground as the rakyat battled with rising cost of living, rising cost of doing business in a slowing economy.
The prolonged low oil palm price saw the country’s 600,000 smallholders badly hit for more than a year.
This does not include those in the downstream economic activities, from those in fertiliser business to the labourers.
Even those with 10 acres of oil palm are struggling to stay afloat, says a Chinese oil palm smallholder in Tanjung Piai where more than 75% of the 52,986 voters are small holders.
The rest, including fishermen who have been been facing dwindling catch, and they are in dire straits after the government removed the allowance for them this year.
The Chinese fishbreeders in Kukup who lost about RM10 million when more than 100 tonnes of fish died over three incidents in October, saw them struggling to stay afloat.
It was Dr Wee who highlighted their plight in Parliament, asking the goverment to help them.
“DAP is facing a trust - deficit, ” says MCA deputy president Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon on why so many Chinese voters have abandoned the party which they gave overwhelming support in GE14.
The DAP had gotten overall 95% of Chinese votes for Pakatan just 18 months ago.
Many of the major issues plaguing the people are also within the jurisdiction of Primary Industries Ministry and Finance Ministry where DAP’s Teresa Kok and Lim Guan Eng are the minister respectively.
Among others, the Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) on properties disposed after five years has triggered much unhappiness among the people.
Dr Wee is the one fighting to abolish the tax since it was introduced a year ago.
Contrary to general assumption, many who invested in properties are not rich.
In fact, it is quite common to see middle class Chinese living frugally to pay for properties and sell them later to send their children to university.
On education, Lim who deprived Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC) RM30 million annual matching grant this year and next year, amounting to RM60mil, also did not go down well in the Chinese community who always has education at heart.
Further more, the grants is to help keep the tution fees affordable, and the Barisan government had never deprived the 50-year - old institution the grant.
Set up by MCA in 1969, the college run by MCA and govern by all the relevant laws in the country, has produced more than 200,000 graduates to date, mostly from low and middle income families.
Dr Wee also noted that MCA may have undergone several crisis in its 70 years of existence, but TAR UC was never affected.
Thus, Lim’s insistence that MCA must severe ties with TAR UC, saying education and politics should not be mixed, before he considers giving it the matching grants has proven to be costly for Pakatan in Tanjung Piai.
The issue was under the spotlight throughout the campaigning.
Many sees Lim as an arrogant leader, and the poor turnout out at DAP ceramah and an unresponsive crowd is telling.
Another lesson to learn from this by-election is to have a candidate that cuts across all races.
Jeck Seng is certainly one, and it is the locals who vouched for him during campaigning as he chose to keep a low profile as he went about to help them.
The Malays called him Wee Jeck Seng while he is Risheng to the Chinese who are mostly mandarin speaking.
While plenty has been said about the anger and resentment of the voters towards Pakatan after GE14 that led to Pakatan’s defeat, it is also the Opposition that took a constructive approach in fighting for the people ‘s welfare that won the voters over end of the day.
Dr Wee has been fighting very hard on people-centric issues, substantiated with facts and figures that made a difference.
It is never criticising for the sake of criticising.
The celebration is only for one day, says Dr Mah as he forsees heightened expectations from the people from now on.
“We all got to get back to work, and work even harder, ” he says.
Dr Wee says he sees an even more challenging time ahead for MCA with the return of the people’s confidence to the party.
This is a big boost to the party’s revival process, says the president who took over the party helm in December last year when the party was at its lowest ebb.