COMMENTARY, Nov 17 — Barisan Nasional (BN) trounced Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the just-concluded Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election by a majority of 15,086 when its candidate Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng polled 25,466 votes against Karmaine Sardini’s 10,380.
The overwhelming majority sent a loud and clear message to the government to “buck up or step down” as the voters’ rejection of ruling PH can be interpreted that there is no more tolerance for excuses from national leaders.
These voters are voicing the dissatisfaction of probably half of the nation when they gave BN an overwhelming majority because word went around that friends and relatives of the voters had called them to convey this message to PH leaders.
Besides the non-delivery of last year’s general election pledges, they are also telling the government to table its future plans and stop blaming the previous government for anything and everything.
But the real issues here are the cost of living — which has become intolerable — stupid and conflicting statements on common issues from government leaders and physical infrastructure development the constituents truly need.
The majority obtained — never before seen in any by-election in the country’s history — is also an indication that the Chinese constituents who make up 42 per cent of the total 52,000-odd voters accepted the Muafakat Nasional concept promoted by Islamist PAS and Umno which includes all the racial parties in the BN coalition.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad failed to stop the “rebellious” voters when he came down for a purported final sweep in the campaign while DAP also failed to comfort its supporters who were “thirsty for blood” after claiming they had been “played out.”
PH went into the campaign not knowing or acknowledging that its candidate is a “has been” politician as far as Malay voters are concerned. He also seemed to be “shy” during the campaign, too “shy” in fact to even meet up and talk to reporters.
Even within his own party — Party Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) — there was opposition to him as a candidate.
While selling a new face is an arduous task, issues plaguing the government such as unfulfilled promises, the rise in the cost of living, the fall in palm oil prices and issues affecting Chinese education added to the burden.
Lack of co-operation among members of the coalition parties where each went its own way, uncoordinated issues presented to voters and Bersatu’s own weakness in not having its own election machinery were also part of the problem.
In short, PH went into the fight without knowing the terrain and strength of BN which its leaders assumed was down and out.
BN, on the other hand, was like a kamikaze jet fighter; after all, they had nothing to lose.
Its election campaign machinery was also well co-ordinated, covering all areas and addressing issues relevant to the locals.