Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Permatang Pauh By-Election

The result was out (9:50pm - MalaysiaKini, 11:00pm - TheStar). Anwar Ibrahim (PR-PKR) got 31,195 votes. Arif Shah Omar Shah (BN-UMNO) 15,524 votes. Hanafi Hamat (Ind-Akim) 92 votes. 599 votes were ruled to be spoilt. This sum up to 81.1% voter turnout, or 47,410 out of 58,459 registered voters.

The support for Anwar and PKR has not changed so much. Rather, there were more support shown in the by-election, as Wan Azizah's majority vote margin of 13,388 in March 8 was broken by her husband's 15,671 majority vote, amid the sodomy allegation against him. Anwar was combating on a non-level playing field at PKR's disadvantage, and yet able to win. The ultra intensive attention poured out by BN, particularly Najib Abdul Razak who spent most of his time campaigning for his comrade (Arif Shah), was useless. All the campaign ceramahs, money, and tactics poured by BN to discredit Anwar seemed not helpful at all. The people in Permatang Pauh who have voted against BN have, in one voice, spoke directly to BN that all the efforts to fish for votes do and will not work. And more importantly, BN need to be receptive of these many-fold messages.

To many people, it was malicious to have the polling day set on Tuesday rather than on weekend. This decision by Election Committee had indeed created a major hindrance to the voters in Permatang Pauh, compromising the basic citizen rights of 58,459 registered voters. As an ultimate counter-action to safeguard their citizen rights, Penang CM Lim Guan Eng, with his power in his office, declared a holiday on the polling day. And, salute to the voters, the turnout rate was slightly better than March 8 election. Imagine, more voters are willing to turn out at polling stations on a weekday. The have chosen to rank their basic rights above anything else!

One person I would really salute: Hanafi Hamat. Having harvested only 92 votes throughout the polling hours, he was doomed to have his deposit lost in the by-election. Yet, he was there during the official announcement of the final results. He stayed at the battle till the end, even though it was obvious that he was going to lose - I guess throughout the 4-hour vote counting period, by the 3rd hour he should have known that he's lost. Salute to him!

On the other hand, it was reported that Arif Shah was nowhere to be found during the official announcement. Where was he? Why did he disappear instead of facing the truth there and then? Although he's lost in the by-election, he is still a legitimate state assemblyman of N10 Seberang Jaya constituency. The best that he could actually do was to show face, and let the voters that voted for him now as well as back in March 8 felt that he was still a hero and a sporting contestant among them. His very action of disappearing would cost him a disaster in his upcoming career as an assemblyman, as he had failed to honor the votes that has been cast for him. I do not know how Seberang Jaya voters would feel, but out of empathy, I would feel disheartened to have such an assemblyman.

Well, I guess the one person that did turn a sour face was Najib. Najib ranted that he was disappointed at the action of aggressive stopping of 5 buses by PKR supporters, who believed that those buses ferry phantom voters. According to Najib, the buses are supposed to ferry BN supporters. He also added that PKR did bring in supporters from outside. Well, one thing sure is that, the police had announced a day earlier that non-voters were advised not to step into Permatang Pauh. Which means, be it BN supporters from outside or PKR supporters from outside, they were not supposed to be there. In addition, even if the 5 buses contain phantom voters or BN supporters, it would not improve much on BN's vote count. Rather than feeling disappointed, Najib should gracefully accept the defeat, and spend some time pondering how he could listen more to the rakyat's needs and fulfilling it. In any case, the win by Anwar does pose a great threat to Najib, as both are called prime minister in-waiting.

Throughout the 10 days of campaigning and polling, Malaysians could see from different angles the true colors of many politicians and supporters, and experience one of the greatest political wrestle for votes of all times. It is indeed the mother of all by-elections.

Picture above is courtesy of MalaysiaKini.

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