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YAN, Nov 5 — PAS’s reduced majority in yesterday’s Sungai Limau by-election took no skin off the Islamist party but spells a setback for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) that had been banking on Kedah-born Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s name and his scion to sail through the polls, DAP leaders have said.
DAP Kedah interim chief Zairil Khir Johari and the opposition party’s adviser Lim Kit Siang insisted that PAS’s success in keeping the Kedah state seat was a major blow to the BN’s mighty machinery under the leadership of its Mentri Besar Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, son of Malaysia’s longest-serving former prime minister, whom they claimed had followed his father’s style and pulled out all the stops in his bid to wrest Sungai Limau.
“It is clear that Mahathir’s influence has receded with this win,” Zairil, the son of a former Umno minister, told The Malay Mail Online last night after the official results announced a PAS victory by a lowered 1,084-vote margin.
He alleged that BN was free with its wallet on the campaign trail but claimed such tactics failed to dent Sungai Limau’s support of PAS despite what the ruling coalition had hoped for.
“Considering all the carnivals, programmes and resources they have put into the campaign, any kind of victory by PAS, against all odds, even with a lesser majority, is considered a great success,” Zairil said.
When contacted, Lim reiterated his previous statement that PAS’s latest win in Kedah was the third and probably final, setback to the election playbook he named “Mahathirism” in the six months after the May 5 general election.
“This is his third setback in six months and this showed that he has failed to make any mark even in this by-election in Kedah,” the Gelang Patah MP told The Malay Mail Online.
The veteran opposition politician alleged that Dr Mahathir had mounted a campaign of “lies, falsehoods and character-assassination”, which he added, had formed the staple ahead of polling day in Sungai Limau.
Lim noted that it was similar to the campaign his 88-year-old arch foe had initiated against him ahead of the 13th general election, citing Dr Mahathir’s accusations that he was contesting in Gelang Patah to make the Chinese “dislike and hate the Malays”, and claiming that DAP wanted to remove the Malays from political dominance to set up a Christian state.
According to Lim, Dr Mahathir and Mahathirism suffered the first setback during the May 5 polls when he (Lim) had won the Gelang Patah seat with a majority of over 14,000 votes.
The second setback was during the Umno party elections last month when his son, the Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, failed to win the Umno vice president post he had contested.
“This win by PAS candidate Mohd Azam Abdul Samat is very significant as it proved that despite the might of all of BN and its machinery, PAS and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) manages to maintain the seat,” Lim said.
Mohd Azam had managed to take the seat but with a reduced majority than his predecessor, the late Tan Sri Azizan Abdul Razak, by garnering a majority of 1,084 votes in contrast to the latter’s 2,774 majority votes on May 5.
Mohd Azam had received 12,068 votes against BN’s Dr Ahmad Sohaimi Lazim who received 10,985 votes.
Out of the 27,222 registered voters in that constituency, only 23,249 or 85.5 per cent voters turned out to cast their votes today compared to 89.43 per cent voters during the 13th general election in May.
Lim termed the win as an inspiration for PR to march forward from the Sungai Limau by-election to Putrajaya in the 14th general election.
The setback for Dr Mahathir and Mukhriz is also a time for moderates to speak up and “not be held back by anyone,” he said.
Kedah PAS commissioner and PAS vice president Datuk Mahfuz Omar also attributed the reduced majority to the fact that polling day fell on a working day and that a total of 3,666 voters live and work outstation.
“About 1,000 voters were probably unable to vote due to various reasons, this is why we have reduced majority,” he said.
However, he said PAS will not be complacent and will take this as the first step for PAS to come back to power in Kedah.
“We hope Mohd Azam, like Azizan, will be able to retain the seat at every general election for at least another five terms,” Mahfuz added.
The late Azizan had first won the seat in 1995 and had retained the seat for five terms before it was vacated when he died on September 26.