The low voter turnout and the reduced margin of win in Kajang for Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is a warning to PKR not to insult the people’s intelligence with their political games.
EVERYONE noticed that the voters were coming in at a trickle rather than at a brisk pace when polling started in Kajang yesterday.
This was despite the fact that the weather was fine, the haze had lifted and it was a Sunday.
Only about 25% of the Kajang electorate had voted by 10am.
The alarm bells on the PKR side only started ringing after midday when the trickle remained a trickle – 42% at noon, 47% at 1pm, 55% at 2pm.
Even the polling stations in the Chinese enclave that had packed the PKR and DAP ceramah throughout the campaign were experiencing a rather slow voter turnout.
At 2.30pm, a worried Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim sent out an SOS tweet urging supporters to call their loved ones and friends to come out and vote.
It was a Code Blue situation of sorts as party workers rushed to bring people out to vote in the afternoon.
The Kajang by-election has not turned out the way PKR had expected.
The capacity crowds at their ceramah had not translated into the big votes that they wanted.
PKR’s Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail beat Barisan Nasional’s Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun by 5,379 votes.
It was a rather hollow majority, given that the former assemblyman, who was forced to resign the seat, had garnered a bigger majority of 6,824 votes.
Besides, she is the PKR president and her charismatic husband had been campaigning in Kajang since February.
The overall voter turnout at the end of the day was only 72%, much lower than the 88% who voted in the general election.
It is low, going by by-election standards – the turnout was 86% in Sungai Limau and 80% in Kuala Besut.
The lower margin of win has defied the surveys conducted by Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel) and the CENSE think-tank.
Both research bodies had predicted that PKR would win by a majority of 10,000 to 12,000 votes, based on an estimated voter turnout of more than 80%.
However, Universiti Selangor, or Unisel, got it quite close.
Their survey said PKR would win by about 7,000 votes.
The surveys had underestimated Kajang’s thinking class who had disapproved of the reason for the by-election.
They saw it as arrogant and self-serving or as one Barisan Nasional leader termed as “the unwanted election”.
Some immediate conclusions can be drawn from the outcome of what is arguably the most controversial by-election in recent electoral history.
The low voter turnout suggests that there is a significant number of thinking people who believe that Pakatan Rakyat is taking their support for granted and abusing the democracy process to suit its own party agenda.
They felt that PKR had insulted their intelligence with its political games.
There was also a silent boycott among PAS members and supporters.
PAS did not hold any big ceramah to canvass the Malay hearts and minds, and there was a noticeable absence of their ulama big guns in Kajang.
PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang was seen only once in Kajang.
Like many out there, PAS leaders did not swallow the nonsense about Anwar being the only person who could solve the racial and religious tensions in Selangor.
Selangor PAS, for one, was deeply unhappy at what it regarded as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s high-handedness in forcing a sitting assemblyman to resign.
But their unhappiness turned to anger when they learnt that the move was to enable Anwar to take over as Selangor Mentri Besar.
The party felt that the decision on the Mentri Besar has to be made by consensus and not by one man.
The Islamist party has a network of members and supporters in this part of Selangor and it was obvious that the PAS machinery did not roll out in force for what one young PAS leader called a “stupid by-election” in an e-mail to his circle of friends.
PKR had set its sights on a target majority of 10,000 votes especially after the Appeals Court ruled against Anwar in the sodomy case.
Its leaders thought that people would get all worked up over the court decision.
They had asked the ceramah crowd in the Kajang Stadium two nights before polling to use their vote as a referendum on Anwar’s plight and the judicial system.
People out there do sympathise with Anwar but it seems like Kajang folk did not want to be used as guinea pigs in his political survival.
PKR must have been quite disappointed that the Chinese did not turn up in droves to vote for them.
The Chinese, especially those in the Sungai Chua new village area, had been going gaga over Anwar and Dr Wan Azizah yet the turnout in the five polling stations in Sungai Chua was only around 70%.
Dr Wan Azizah needed a Chinese turnout of more than 80% to achieve the 10,000-vote majority.
Another reason for the low turnout has to do with Barisan candidate Chew.
The MCA vice-president has no baggage and enjoys a good public image.
During her walkabouts, many Chinese would tell her that they liked her but could not vote for Barisan.
It is likely that some of them decided not to give their vote to PKR even as they were reluctant to vote for Barisan.
The Kajang by-election results is a setback for Anwar’s bid to ignite a second wave of street protests or Reformasi 2.0.
It is also a slap in the face for his strategic director Rafizi Ramli, a warning to the young upstart not to use the electoral process as his political playground.
But all said and done, most people are just relieved that a by-election that should not have been called in the first place is finally over.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.
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