PETALING JAYA: Pakatan Harapan managed to retain both the Pulai parliamentary seat and Simpang Jeram state seat, but the low voter turnout in the two by-elections is a major source of concern, say political analysts.
Assoc Prof Dr Mazlan Ali, who heads the politics and governance research group at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, said the low voter turnout continued the trend from the six state elections on Aug 12.
“One of the reasons is the mindset among voters that whatever the outcome of these two by-elections, it will not change anything at the federal or state level,” he said.
The voter turnout for Pulai was 47.3% and for Simpang Jeram it was 60.85%.
Mazlan said most of the outstation voters were those in M40 and B40 groups who don’t have the financial capability to return to their hometowns just to vote.
“They will have to spend a few hundred ringgit to pay for the fuel and tolls. If they have a large family, the expenses to just come back and vote could easily reach almost RM800, which is a lot for them.
“In Pulai, about 30% of the outstation voters work in Singapore and they may prefer going to work than going to polling stations,” he added.
Mazlan said Pakatan’s Suhaizan Kayat and Nazri Abdul Rahman are popular and well-known among locals in Pulai and Simpang Jeram, respectively.
“Also, we cannot deny the fact that the late Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub left a huge legacy in Pulai and Simpang Jeram.
“Voters wanted a continuation of Salahuddin’s legacy from Suhaizan and Nazri as well as from the unity government,” he added.
Salahuddin, the former Pulai MP and Simpang Jeram assemblyman, passed away on July 23, paving the way for the two by-elections.
Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said the victories in Pulai and Simpang Jeram had been expected, but he too was concerned over the low voter turnout.
While the poor weather could have discouraged voters, he believed the low turnout was largely due to political fatigue, as voters last year went through the 15th General Election (GE15) in November and the Johor state polls in March.
“Outstation voters did not return to vote as they were confident that the outcome of the by-elections would favour Pakatan.
“I myself did not return to Pulai to vote this time around,” said Azmi.
He said the reduced majority was expected in Pulai due to the low voter turnout.
However, he said Simpang Jeram saw an increased vote majority compared with the state election last March.
“The increased majority in Simpang Jeram is a good sign for Pakatan and Barisan Nasional as a majority of voters there are Malays.
“This shows that the Pakatan-Barisan cooperation is working in Johor and the (PAS) green wave stops at Gemas, Negri Sembilan,” said Azmi.
In GE15, the green wave saw Perikatan Nasional making a clean sweep across Perlis, Kedah and Kelantan.
While Perikatan managed to make huge inroads into Selangor during the state polls last month, it only managed to secure five state seats in Negri Sembilan, among them Gemas.
Simpang Jeram saw Pakatan winning with a majority of 3,514 votes, while in the Johor state election, it recorded a 2,399-vote majority win.
Universiti Malaya Assoc Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the outcome of the two by-elections showed that attempts by Perikatan to capitalise on the outcome of the Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi court case has not been a success.
“It is also clear that Johoreans reject the politics of obsession, race and religion played up by certain parties,” he added.
Awang Azman said that despite the victories, Pakatan and Barisan had to work harder to convince grassroots party members and voters about the need to cooperate as a government.