In Tg Piai, Analysts See Voters Punishing PH for Incompetence

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It would seem that frustration over PH’s perceived incompetence had trumped Chinese fear of the Umno-PAS union.

The rakyat’s grouses:

  • A dysfunctional government dogged by contradictions and tiresome infighting
  • Failure of DAP to deliver on GE promises such as the UEC
  • DAP’s inability to stand up to Mahathir
  • Bizarre policies like the khat controversy
  • Increased ethnic posturing

Voters in Tanjung Piai vented against what is likely seen as a dysfunctional government dogged by contradictions and tiresome infighting when they voted out incumbent Pakatan Harapan (PH) in yesterday’s by-election, political analysts said.

The ruling coalition’s crushing defeat underscored the boiling frustration felt by voters angered by the new government’s failure to fulfil many of its key election pledges, they said, adding that PH’s penchant for political squabbling may have also alienated its own supporters.

“People are rejecting the PH government that is seen as dysfunctional in so many ways,” said Arnold Puyok, a political analyst with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

Surianie Mohd Hanif/NST

“From the lethargic governing system to handicap in delivering the promises.”

The receding Chinese votes provided an early warning to the ruling coalition that its minority power base is not as secure as it would like to believe, Puyok said.

This point was made clear by the fact that many Chinese voters still rooted for Wee even as efforts were taken to paint Muafakat Nasional – the Umno-PAS alliance – as a grave threat to minority rights.

According to Puyok, it would seem that frustration over PH’s perceived incompetence had trumped Chinese fear of the Umno-PAS union, which underlined the community’s scepticism of the frail power-sharing formula that holds the ideologically opposing ruling parties.

“Power-sharing is very important in maintaining order and influence, but PH is unable to convince the people of such power-sharing when sloppy leaders of DAP members keep provoking the political stability,” he said.

The failure of the DAP to deliver on its general election promises last year was a factor in the swing against Pakatan Harapan in the Tanjung Piai by-election, according to political analyst James Chin.

The massive majority won by Barisan Nasional (BN) in the by-election showed that Chinese voters had swung against DAP.

Chin said the PH loss was related to national issues.

“For the Malay voters, it has to do with Umno-PAS working together, and a protest vote against prime minister and Pakatan Harapan chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad. For Chinese voters, it’s a stand against DAP,” he said.

“When the Chinese community supported DAP almost 100% (in the 2018 general election), they expected DAP to deliver on all their promises.

“If you look at all the Chinese core issues, the DAP could not deliver anything,” he said.

Major issues included government recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (of independent Chinese-medium schools), business opportunities, less discrimination and such, he said.

“They are also unhappy with what they perceive to be DAP’s inability to stand up to Mahathir. Some want to send a signal to DAP that they should not behave like MCA under the BN, when it was often accused of being Umno’s running dog who could not stand up to defend core Chinese interests. Some think this is happening to DAP under PH,” he said.

Another political analyst, Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, agreed that the result had to do with national issues, noting that there was a major swing among non-Malay voters.


“When our team went on the ground, Malay voters that we surveyed showed that those that previously voted BN maintained their support while those who voted for PAS said they would vote for BN,” he said.

Kamarul said voters had stated that Wee, who was MP for two terms from 2008, had taken good care of them previously.

Shafwan Zaidon

“Not just the non-Malay voters, the Malay voters as well,” he said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Sivamurugan Pandian agreed the candidate factor was pivotal in BN’s victory,

MCA’s Wee was already a popular candidate having served the seat as its MP since the 90s, giving him the upper hand against the low-key Karmaine.

“The BN candidate is more credible,” said Sivamurugan.

“The PH internal factor may also have become the push factor, including the choice of candidate, machinery and failure to attract crowds during the campaign.”

Ibrahim Suffian, director of pollster Merdeka Center, concurred but said Chinese voters were also likely to have been angered by the many bizarre policies of the ruling coalition, like the khat controversy.


“I think open political bickering within the PH coalition, instituting policies that voters didn’t ask for (for example, Jawi lessons in vernacular schools) and increased ethnic posturing have contributed to a swing among Chinese voters,” he said.