The Two By-Elections : It’s Do or Die Time

Posted on May 25, 2016

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On June 18, 2016, the voters of P.93 Sungai Besar in Selangor and P.67 Kuala Kangsar in Perak will have a chance to elect new Members of Parliament. This was brought about by the tragic death of both the constituencies’ MPs in a helicopter crash in Sarawak while they were on the campaign trail for Barisan Nasional at the recently concluded state election.

Sungai Besar was won by the late Noriah Kanson of UMNO with a wafer thin margin of 399 votes (49.6% of votes cast) while Kuala Kangsar was won by the late Wan Mohd Khair-il Anuar Wan Ahmad also of UMNO by 1,082 votes (50.4% of votes cast). Both seats are deemed extremely marginal and are up for grabs.

Under Article 55(3) of the Federal Constitution, if a vacancy arises at a date which is less than two years from the date on which Parliament’s five-year mandate is expiring, no by-election needs to be held. The tenure of the current 13th Parliament term will expire on June 24, 2018.

These two by-elections would indeed be the last opportunity for Barisan Nasional (BN) and the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) together with their former coalition partner PAS, to get their act together.

The stakes are extremely high for all parties. The outcome of the by-elections would likely provide the momentum to propel them into the 14th General Election due in two years time.

Barisan Nasional, while still euphoric from their landslide win at the Sarawak state election, still has to shake off the corruption stench of the 1MDB and RM2.6 billion in the PM’s personal account scandals.

The popularity rating of PM Najib Razak, albeit improved after Sarawak, is still dangerously low and with former PM Tun Dr Mahathir leading a charge to remove him, Najib would be desperate to have good results from these two by-elections to secure his position in the party. A bad result would lead to increase pressure to remove him before GE14.

The opposition coalition of Pakatan Harapan, fractured even before the Sarawak state election, is now badly bruised by the result of it.

If they could not come to an agreement with their former bed-fellow PAS and with each other over who to contest the two seats and go for multi-cornered fights and lose the contests, it may spell the end of hope for a meaningful challenge to BN’s hegemonic six decades long rule.

With Nomination Day on June 5th, the top priority for PH is to come to an agreement with PAS to field only one candidate for each seat against BN. Splitting the opposition votes will likely hand both seats to BN.

The number one factor and campaign issue PH and PAS have to consider should be Najib Razak. They have to make the by-elections a referendum on Najib. Under his prime-ministership, GST was imposed, 1MDB was exposed, draconian laws were passed, critics are persecuted and corruption reached stratospheric levels.

Do we have politicians who can rise above their narrow agendas, unite together, seizing this golden opportunity to deal UMNO/BN a double-blow and restore hope for Malaysians who seek reformation of our political and public institutions?

Or are we to continue witnessing the shenanigans of small-minded politicians clambering for power at all cost, even at the expense of the country?

As it is, judging by the lower turnout of the Sarawak state election, the people are politically tired and frankly, fed up.

Fed up with the disunity of the opposition. Fed up with the absence of real solutions to our cost of living, education and security malaise. Fed up with Rosmah jokes, even 1MDB and RM2.6 billion expose. It’s not that they are not important or that people condone them but how are we going to make things better.

People are tired of negative politicking from both sides. When times are tough, we need to have hope. We need ideas. We need a vision of a tomorrow that is brighter than today.

If by some miracle PH and PAS can come to an electoral pact to contest separate seats and win both seats convincingly, then the dying ember of hope may just be rekindled in the hearts of many and GE14 may yet be the watershed election for our nation.

If not, many more bags will be packed as people start to look for greener pastures elsewhere and for those who are still around by GE14, many would not bother to vote.

In my humble opinion, the upcoming by-elections is a do or die scenario for both BN and the opposition. For BN, it is the survival of Najib; for the opposition, the survival of hope.

Posted in: Election, Thomas Fann