SANDAKAN, May 11 — An initial count estimates that 54.22 per cent out of the 39,684 registered voters in Sandakan turned out to cast their ballots today, said Sabah police commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah.
The figure is short of the initial target of 70 per cent total turnout in the parliamentary election called following the March 28 death of its elected MP Datuk Stephen Wong Tien Fatt from the DAP.
“We don’t know why the count is so low yet. We know that our security control was tight throughout and there were no criminal or election offences reported so that was not a factor,” said Omar during a press conference at the vote tallying centre of SMJK Tionghua here today.
The voter demography of Sandakan can be broken down into 51 per cent ethnic Chinese, 45 per cent Muslim Bumiputera and the rest are of other races.
The five-way contest involves the daughter of the late Sandakan incumbent Vivian Wong Shir Yee from DAP, Parti Bersatu Sabah candidate Datuk Linda Tsen Thau Lin and three Independents — former Sabah Parti Amanah Negara founder Hamzah Abdullah, businessman Chia Siew Yung, and a former officer at the Sandakan parliamentary constituency service centre, Sulaiman Samat.
Political analyst Oh Ei Sun said that although by-elections often see lower voter turnouts due to the lack of enthusiasm compared to a potentially regime changing general or state election.
“In Sandakan’s case it is exacerbated by voter’s complacency in presuming a DAP victory and therefore being reluctant to come out and vote,” said the Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow.
UMS’s Lee Kuok Tiung said it meant that DAP and Warisan failed to convince the people of its issues.
“They have been concentrating a lot of 1MDB and the kleptocracy and have not appealed to the voters outstation to return,” he said.
Elsewhere, Omar said that there was one report of alleged vote buying by DAP by a rival party supporter at 12.06am today.
“It’s an allegation, submitted with a video but the video is unclear — very dark. We will still investigate it accordingly,” he said.