Pakatan plays down Kerdau, Merlimau defeats

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders today played down the declining Malay support which contributed to the PAS defeat in the Kerdau and Merlimau by-elections yesterday.

They pointed out that Barisan Nasional’s (BN) success in increasing its margin of victory was because of the higher turnout among the ruling coalition’s supporters.

“Overall, PAS only lost 184 votes, and the increase in BN’s votes was because of the higher turnout,” said PAS vice-president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, referring to the outcome of the Kerdau election.

“Maybe the fence sitters who supported us in 2008 have switched to BN or maybe they didn’t come out to vote this time,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

In the contest in the Malay-majority Pahang state seat, PAS’s Hassanuddin Salim lost to BN candidate Syed Ibrahim Syed Ahmad by 3,643 votes.

In 2008, BN won the seat by 1,615 votes.

A similar outcome was also seen in Merlimau when BN increased its majority from 2,154 votes in 2008 to 3,643 yesterday.

Tuan Ibrahim however pointed out that the Islamist party recorded an increase of votes in the three Felda settlements in Kerdau but BN too managed to improve its performance significantly in its stronghold.

“Yes we are worried, because Kerdau and Merlimau are Malay majority but it is not an indication of a national trend,” he said.

PR has seen a decline in Malay support since July 2009 where the by-election in the 99 per cent Malay seat of Manek Urai in Kelantan saw a 1,352-vote majority for PAS in its stronghold cut to a wafer-thin 65.

A similar trend was also seen in Hulu Selangor and Galas when BN recaptured the seats lost to PR in 2008.

In the recent by-election in Tenang, Johor PR failed to make any headway among the mainly Felda Malays as BN swept over 83 per cent of Malay votes to increase its majority by over 1,200 votes.

“The so-called slide all happened in BN strongholds, as much as we acknowledge that there is a slide, we don’t view it in a catastrophic manner,” said PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli.

“To say the Malays are predominantly with Umno is not accurate,” he added.

Rafizi also pointed to the higher turnout as the reason behind BN’s victories in the by-elections, citing the Hulu Selangor polls last year as an example.

Pua said it was not unusual for the opposition to be at a disadvantage in any by-election campaign.

In the Hulu Selangor by-election, BN recaptured the parliamentary seat by 1,725 votes after losing it to PKR by only 198 votes in 2008.

PKR’s success in increasing the number of votes it received from 23,177 in 2008 to 23,272 was offset by the increase of votes for BN from 22,979 to 24,997.

Meanwhile, DAP publicity chief Tony Pua said it was not unusual for the opposition to be at a disadvantage in any by-election campaign.

“That we did not lose much votes but it was more of Umno supporters coming out in full force is only a consolation,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

“For any by-election, the opposition will be on the back foot due to the whole BN machinery coming into play but that should not be an excuse.

“This is something to be expected at every election, that they will be able to persuade their supporters to turn out in full force,” he said.

Pua said a major challenge for PR parties now is to promote the performance of the states under its administration.

“We have been successful in selling Penang to Chinese but we must sell all the other states to the other communities now,” he said.

“Malay voters are not just the burden of PAS and PKR. Umno uses DAP as a bogeyman for the Malays so we have a role to play to regain Malay voters as well,” he added.

Liew cited the lack of campaign resources in largely rural constituencies.

DAP chief strategist Liew Chin Tong cited the lack of resources in largely rural constituencies unlike in urban areas where the opposition has been able to campaign through the Internet.

“In general we already conceded that we will not win, so this is one of the contributing factors. We lacked resources and already thinking of Sarawak and general election so it snowballed into the big loss,” he said.

“It shows that resources are very important in rural areas as voters there want face-to-face interaction. In urban areas, we can use technology to bring issues but rural areas require better organisation of resources,” he added.

Report by Adib Zalkalpli and Shannon Teoh, TheMalaysianInsider

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