KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 — The announcement yesterday that the Port Dickson federal seat will be vacated for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to contest has cemented his position as among the most regular reasons for a by-election.
Malaysia went through an unusual 32 by-elections since the 2008 general election and the 33rd is now on the way.
Of these, 13 were for federal seats, or around 40 per cent.
The top two leading triggers for the 33 by-elections have been deaths caused by cancer in its various forms (nine cases) and heart attack (eight cases).
The latter is the principal cause of death for Malaysians, especially men, involving 13.2 per cent of deaths in 2016, according to the most recent data by the Department of Statistics.
Beyond the two, Anwar is arguably the next most frequent trigger for by-elections in the last decade, affecting four of such polls.
1. Permatang Pauh, 2008
In July 31, 2008, his wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail resigned from the Permatang Pauh federal seat to pave way for Anwar’s return to politics after his decade-long ban.
Anwar won the subsequent by-election with a 15,671-vote majority, beating Dr Wan Azizah’s 13,398.
He went on to defend the seat in the 13th general election.
2. Kajang, 2014
In 2014, PKR forced a vacancy in Kajang with the resignation of Lee Chin Cheh, leading to the scheme being named the “Kajang Move”.
The scheme was ostensibly engineered for Anwar to become the Selangor mentri besar, as a stepping stone for him as then Pakatan Rakyat’s prime minister-in-waiting.
However, the Court of Appeal overturned Anwar’s acquittal for his second sodomy case and left him disqualified, leaving Dr Wan Azizah to run in his place instead.
She won with a smaller 5,379-vote majority compared to Lee’s 6,824 and did not become Selangor MB either. The post went to Datuk Seri Azmin Ali instead.
3. Permatang Pauh, 2015
In February 2015, Anwar’s conviction was reaffirmed by the Federal Court, triggering yet another by-election in the federal seat.
Dr Wan Azizah again ran for the seat, winning with a smaller majority of 8,841 votes compared to Anwar’s 11,721.
4. Port Dickson, 2018
PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution revealed incumbent Port Dickson MP Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah’s resignation yesterday to clear the path for Anwar to return to Parliament.
Danyal’s victory in the May polls was among the more unexpected upsets of the general election as the federal constituency is home to a significant military population that had traditionally been a Barisan Nasional vote bank.
Designating Anwar as the eighth prime minister was part of Pakatan Harapan’s pledges in the polls. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong granted Anwar a full pardon from his sodomy conviction right after the pact’s victory.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad previously said he would stay at least for two years to carry out the pact’s reform agenda, while Anwar himself had said that he was in no hurry to return to active politics.
Dr Mahathir has repeatedly assured Anwar that he will hand over the reins to the latter.