There is no clear indication Barisan Nasional is regaining Chinese votes, despite the coalition’s impressive outings in by-elections held after the 14th general elections (GE14), analysts said.
MCA president Wee Ka Siong had said in a Mingguan Malaysia interview published yesterday that the BN component party has started to win back Chinese support, evidenced from the Tg Piai and Slim elections in which BN polled more votes, including among the Chinese, than it did during GE14.
But Ilham Centre head of research Dr Mohd Yusri Ibrahim said while there are signs of some degree of returning support, it is still too unclear to draw a firm conclusion.
Yusri said based on sentiments on the ground in the ongoing Sabah election campaign, the Chinese community appeared to be leaning towards Warisan Plus.
DAP, which is part of the Warisan Plus pact, has more potential of winning seats where there is a higher percentage of Chinese voters, he said.
In the peninsula, however, he conceded there are some signs that Chinese votes are returning to BN but said these could be unique to particular developments.
“There are certain indications, starting from the Tg Piai by-election to Slim, which shows a return of some Chinese votes. But to me, that is still temporary,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
By-election victories cannot be used as a yardstick to gauge or predict support in a general election, as voters’ reasons for their choice in a national poll may change.
In by-elections, voters tend to vote based on current issues at the time, while in a general election, they tend to look at the bigger picture, taking into account issues concerning the economy, Yusri said.
In the Tg Piai polls in November last year, the Chinese community wanted to show its dissatisfaction over Pakatan Harapan’s handling of issues, such as the introduction of khat calligraphy to Year 4 pupils, Yusri said.
Chinese voters in Tg Piai also used the by-election to express their displeasure with the PH government’s handling of funding for Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, an MCA-controlled institution, but one that has helped many Chinese students from low- and middle-income families further their education, he added.
Currently, there are other developing issues still playing out, such as the land encroachment crisis involving durian farmers in Raub, on which MCA has been largely silent, Yusri said. The way the Pahang government handles this matter might also determine Chinese support for the party and BN.
“The Pahang government taking a softer approach with the durian farmers will give the Chinese community hope that they can still cooperate with BN,” he said.
Another simmering issue for the Chinese is the corruption charges brought against DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, which could draw the community’s sympathy.
The graft charges against Lim, among others, include abusing his position as Penang chief minister to misappropriate state-owned land worth RM208.75 million for companies related to the Penang undersea tunnel project during his stint in office.
Independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng also agreed that BN’s by-election wins and higher Chinese support are “isolated” incidents and not a good indication on what is to come in a state or general election.
“With the current political uncertainty, Chinese voters are going to vote tactically to ensure that their choices are contributing to their interests.
“There is no strong indication that the Chinese are warming up to BN, which MCA is part of,” Khoo said.
He added that MCA’s allies – Umno and Bersatu – have also not shown a friendly approach to Chinese voters, given their racial and religious rhetoric.
“So, it’s a choice of the lesser evil,” he said.
Political scientist Wong Chin Huat said the outcome of the Sabah elections will give a better indication of whether there is any basis for Wee’s confidence.
“Malaysia is completely different from before and after the February coup. We only have Slim (the only by-election after the change of government) (to go on).
“We should have a better answer after Sabah to see if Wee’s assessment is factual or wishful,” Wong said, referring to the PH government’s collapse in late February due to plotting and defections that formed the current Perikatan Nasional government.
The Tg Piai by-election was held before the change of government, and to draw conclusions of returning support for BN based on it is “akin to saying how the fried rice that was cooked yesterday tastes today still shows the cook’s skill”, Wong said.
The Slim by-election, held last month, also does not provide an accurate basis to determine support as the choice was between Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s independent candidate and Umno, he added.
MCA candidate Wee Jeck Seng polled 15,086 votes in a six-cornered fight in the Tg Piai by-election. – TMI