Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Permatang Pasir: Sokongan Bukan Melayu Terhadap BN Merosot 5.9%

Undi pengundi bukan melayu di peroleh BN merosot dari 38.2% (Mac 2008) kepada 35.2% PRK Permatang Pasir, Aug 2009.
For example, In the Kampung Cross Street polling station, a 90% Chinese polling station, the BN support decreased from 30.7% in 2008 to 25% in the by-election, a drop of 5.7%.
-Mkini E-section, partly quoted-
This is quite consistent with the trend of a small but perceptible shift in the Malay vote away from Pakatan and back to the BN since Najib took over as Prime Minister.

This shift could have been larger had the BN not been hampered by its poor choice of a candidate from the beginning of this campaign but it would not have been much more than the 7% experienced in the Manek Urai by-election.

Similarly there has also been a small shift in the non-Malay vote against the BN since BN's takeover of the state government in Perak.

This shift could have been larger had more Chinese voters turned up to vote. (The salurans with a higher percentage of Chinese voters were also the ones which experienced the largest fall in turnout).

Like in the Kuala Terengganu by-election in January, the lower turnout among the Chinese voters hurt Pakatan more than it did the BN, a reversal of the pre-March 2008 situation where a lower Chinese turnout in these Malay majority constituencies would actually hurt the BN more than it would the opposition.

The high level of non-Malay support for the PAS candidate firmly cements the BN's position as being the more ethnically 'extreme' party compared to PAS or Keadilan.

While some may say that this was because the contest took place in a state seat that is in the Permatang Pauh constituency, Anwar's stronghold, one must also consider that as recently as the 2004 general election, the majority of the non-Malay voters in the Permatang Pauh constituency voted for the BN.

This is a clear indictment of the BN's decision to play up the racial rhetoric leading up to this by-election and how this strategy will not help the BN's cause in gaining back the non-Malay votes which were lost in the 2008 general election.

Should the BN take some comfort from the fact that it has managed to claw back some of the Malay vote in the at least three of the by-elections which have taken place since Najib's installation as the 6th Prime Minister? (These seats are Bukit Gantang, Manek Urai and now Permatang Pasir) Yes and no.

Yes because these by-elections have shown that Pakatan has not managed to make further inroads among Malay voters. No, because as the incumbent party in power at the federal level, it will have to bear the brunt of any 'shocks' which may take place in the future before the next general election is called.

Another scandal or an economy which shows no sign of improving or a mis-step by Najib or an Anwar conviction would quickly cause the BN to lose the small gains which it has made among the Malay community since March of this year.Permatang Pasir will not be the last by-election to take place before the next general election. There will be more opportunities for Pakatan and the BN to clash again in the electoral arena.

-Analyst Ong Kian Ming is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Duke University. He can be reached at (at) gmail (dot)(com)

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