OCTOBER 14 — Anwar Ibrahim secured an overwhelming mandate from Port Dickson and Malaysia in the Port Dickson by-election yesterday.
While turnout of 58.25 per cent was lower than the 83.16 per cent seen during GE14, it was far higher than the Balakong, Seri Setia and Sungai Kandis by-elections that have been held post May 9. Turnouts for these by-elections ranged from 43 per cent to 49.8 per cent. Considering the fact that close to 30 per cent of voters were outstation voters (based on Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) estimates) who might have had difficulties coming back and voter fatigue was seen in previous by-elections, a 58.25 per cent turnout rate is an incredibly healthy one. This rate is also very much in line with PH’s 60 per cent target.
More significantly, Anwar secured a much higher majority of votes. His vote majority was 23,560 votes, an increase of 33 per cent from the 17,710 votes PH secured during GE14. He secured 71.3 per cent of the total votes casts, much higher than the 59.1 per cent share that PH secured in GE14. All this was done despite a lower voter turnout compared to GE14. Critics pointed to the fact that a lower voter turnout would lead to a lower vote majority for Anwar but this was not the case as a huge number of Malaysians came forth to show their support to him.
Port Dickson is microcosm of Malaysia. It is a relatively large constituency with 75,770 voters and is a mixed seat with healthy proportions of Malay voters (43 per cent), Chinese voters (33 per cent), Indian voters (22 per cent) and other races (2 per cent). Besides that, the constituency possesses voters from different socioeconomic backgrounds ranging from those in lower income to upper income brackets. It is also very varied in terms of voters who work in different industries. Voters range from those working in the tourism industry to those in the oil and gas refining industry. All in all, the constituency is a good representation of Malaysia and is a good gauge of voter sentiment across the country. Thus, the healthy turnout and strong increase in vote majority in this by-election signals that it is not only PD voters but all Malaysians from different races, faiths and socioeconomic statuses have united behind Malaysia’s PM-in-waiting and have given him a strong mandate to return to Parliament.
The PD by-election is also a strong rejection of the divisive racial and religious politics of PAS. PAS has continued to play the racial and religious card post-GE14 and has tried to divide Malaysians of different races and faiths. In contrast, Anwar has been consistent in his call for a Malaysia where Malay interests will be protected and furthered but so will the interests of people from other races and religions as well. A good example was seen during the campaign when PAS President Hadi Awang questioned Anwar on his attendance of events by different religious denominations and accused him of being inconsistent in his Islamic practice. In response to Hadi, Anwar stated that the Islamic tradition respects the right to freedom of religion (in Malaysia).
While Umno did not contest in this election, both Saiful Bukhari and Isa Samad represented the injustices and corruption that existed when Umno was government. Saiful Bukhari was a key figure in the politically motivated sodomy case against Anwar while Isa Samad was Chairman of Felda and has been accused of being very much involved in the huge corruption scandals that have engulfed Felda and troubled the Felda settlers. Both Isa Samad and Saiful Bukhari lost their deposits as PD voters showed that Malaysians have completely rejected the abuses of power that Umno stood for when they were in government.
Port Dickson voters and Malaysians alike have given a clear mandate for Anwar to be Malaysia’s eighth prime minister. The strong support this by-election indicates that Malaysia is fully behind PH’s plan for Anwar to take over when Tun Mahathir steps down in two years. It shows that the country wants a smooth leadership transition that will secure the country’s future over the long term.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.