PETALING JAYA: As Pakatan Harapan nears the midpoint of its five-year administration of the Federal Government, it has won five out of 10 by-elections since it took over Putrajaya in 2018.
Much has been read into the Kimanis by-election defeat, the second consecutive loss following the Tanjung Piai by-election last year, with some saying this reflects Pakatan's performance and public support.
However, analysts are saying that the outcome of the Kimanis by-election should not be interpreted as a sign that Malaysians have rejected the Pakatan government.
Instead, they said Pakatan's defeat is a message by Malaysians that they are disgruntled, given the many issues and controversies that have cropped up in recent months.
"When Barisan was defeated (in GE14), many expected it to be destroyed and it would take between 10 and 15 years for it to recover. As a result, many Umno leaders jumped ship.
"However, in the last 20 months, many issues have surfaced regarding Pakatan's performance and the economy – aside from issues pertaining to race and language," said Universiti Malaya political analyst Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi.
"Many are disgruntled with the way issues are handled by Pakatan. Changes are very slow and expectations are high," he added.
Awang Azman said that Pakatan's recent defeats in by-elections are a message by disgruntled voters that if Barisan could be booted out after more than 60 years, they could do the same to Pakatan out if it continues to under-perform.
He also said that the anti-government sentiment from Peninsular Malaysia that had already spread to Sabah.
Awang Azman said among the factors causing the trust deficit was the tendency of Pakatan leaders to indulge in too much politicking, citing a recent picture showing Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad having dinner with PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.
"The pictures have triggered political uncertainty, as it seemed as though Dr Mahathir is trying to reject DAP and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as his successor," he added.
Awang Azman said the tabling of the 12th Malaysian Plan should include Anwar, as the PKR president is set to take over the prime minister's post from Dr Mahathir this year.
"It should involve Anwar directly because he will lead the country soon – but this is still not happening," he added.
Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said the outcome of by-elections were usually in support of the incumbent party.
He said out of 10 by-elections contested by Pakatan since May 2018, only two – Semenyih and Tanjung Piai – were lost to Barisan.
"The outcome can be used as a yardstick to see what needs to be done to improve their support. However, none of the parties should solely rely on the outcome because we have seen how Barisan won the Sungai Besar by-election with a big majority but lost it in the 2018 General Election," he said.
In 2016, Barisan won the Sungai Besar parliamentary set with a majority of 6,065 votes against PAS and Parti Amanah Negara.
However, it lost the seat to Pakatan in GE14.
"Barisan, as the Opposition, is playing an important role as a check-and-balance to the Government and that has contributed to the Pakatan deficit of trust," he added.
Sivamurugan said Pakatan must avoid making unnecessary remarks and focus on core issues such as the cost of living, having a clear power transition plan and minimise infighting.
He added that it must also show a sense of belonging to the nation and Malaysians.
Meanwhile, constitutional expert Dr Abdul Aziz Bari said the five by-election victories by Barisan did not signify balanced or equal strength, but an indication that Pakatan's public reception was at an all-time low.
"This can only be stopped by a change of guard at the top," he said, referring to Dr Mahathir.
Abdul Aziz also claimed that Dr Mahathir had crossed the line by cozying up to PAS, an act he described as betraying Pakatan's "reformasi" spirit.