KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) win in the Sandakan by-election does not guarantee that the same “winning formula” can be repeated elsewhere in Malaysia, DAP’s Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming said today.
The deputy minister said PH cannot expect the same result in Peninsular Malaysia since Umno and PAS still maintain their support base, while ethno-religious issues still play greater role when played up by the two Opposition parties.
“Caution should be urged in blindly extending the Sandakan success to campaigns in other parts of Malaysia,” said the party’s assistant national director for political education.
Ong said Sabah voters are more accustomed to switching political allegiances, especially when a political party or coalition is no longer in power.
“Taking on a weakened PBS in Sabah is a different proposition from taking on the combined forces of Umno and PAS in Peninsular Malaysia,” he said.
“The issues of race and religion which seems to have less salience in Sabah definitely take on greater political significance when played up in Peninsular Malaysia by Umno and PAS.”
The deputy minister also downplayed the influence of other states’ mentris besar, with the exception of Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, in comparing Sabah’s Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal’s ability to deliver Malay votes.
“Shafie is a known quantity in Sabah and was an influential state politician holding an important federal post while he was one of the vice-presidents of Umno while the newer mentri besars in Johor, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Perak and to a lesser extent, Selangor, will need more time to raise their respective profiles and to exert their influence within their own states,” he said.
This comes Ong admitted that his party’s result was surprising, considering it garnered a higher majority despite the lower voter turnout, in addition to an increase in support from both ethnic Chinese and Bumiputera voters.
Ong said PH must deliver better and higher paying jobs, a vibrant economy and an improved delivery mechanism to ensure an advantage against Umno and PAS’ rhetoric.
“This has to be complemented with firm and focused leadership on the part of PH leaders,” he said.
“Sandakan is a welcomed respite for the ruling coalition and the road ahead seems a little brighter but a lot more work needs to be done as PH begins its second year as government.”