Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has won the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone because this is an Anwar stronghold. The seat fell vacant when PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who won the seat in the 2013 general election, was disqualified when he was jailed for sodomy. His wife, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, was the PKR candidate in the by-election which followed.
She won the seat with a comfortable majority of 8,841 ballots ahead of Barisan Nasional newcomer Suhaimi Sabudin, who got 21,475 votes. Wan Azizah got 30,316 votes. Anwar won the seat with a 11,721 majority against Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Mazlan Ismail. He polled 37,090 votes to Ismail who polled 25,369 votes.
Although Wan Azizah won, she lost 6774 votes that went to Anwar in the 2013 election whereas Suhaimi lost only 3894 of the votes that went to Mazlan in the same election. Both sides are losing votes and that should be a warning that they should buck up or lose more votes.
The lower voter turnout is another telling sign that voter sentiments are not altogether pleased with the current political climate. Voter turnout for the recent by-election was at 73.71%, a sharp drop from 88.3% in the 2013 general election. Voter fatigue is apparent; people are tired of the politicking that hits the news daily, although Wan Azizah claims the lower voter turnout was largely due to the longer weekend. Malaysians celebrated Labour Day on May 1 (Friday) and Wesak Day on May 3 (Sunday, which means Monday is a public holiday).
There might be some truth in this, but, I feel, people are just tired of PKR and Umno going for each other’s throats, and are not sure which choice is better or that the choice is between the devil and the deep blue sea! Political parties need to wake up to the fact that more voters may decide not to participate in the electoral process and that would further erode their support.
Nevertheless, it is apparent that PKR’s core support has not diminished despite Anwar’s sodomy cases and incarceration, efforts to break up PR, and political intimidation by arresting opposition politicians and supporters. Voters have gone beyond the Anwar factor and are giving PKR the chance to prove their mettle to govern. No doubt some of that support has evaporated through disillusionment but a majority is still putting their hopes in PR. It is utterly imperative that PR rises up to the challenge.
The fact that PKR won the by-election by a considerable margin of 8,841 votes is an indication that the people — as Wan Azizah said after the results were announced — want a strong PR. PR has to deliver. The DAP (a PR coalition partner) in Penang has made considerable progress but the PKR government in Selangor has only been able to make small advances. They need to step up their game and prove they can govern and lead a state to greater progress and a higher per capita income, especially for the majority of the people still struggling to make ends meet in the face of rising costs and stagnant salaries.
In Kelantan, the PAS-led government is still lagging behind the other states in terms of development and progress.
PR in multi-racial Selangor — which most reflects the composition of the coalition — has much hard work ahead. The question is whether it has the will to lead and deliver peace, progress and a higher standard of life in Selangor. If it succeeds it will prove it can lead and govern a multi-racial country like Malaysia.
Well, it has another two or three years before the next general election to prove itself.