The Bagan Pinang by-election was very interesting. Half of Port Dickson, especially the half that has most of the hotels, resorts and popular beaches are in Bagan Pinang. The electorate there is also diversed - roughly 64% Malays, 20% Indians, 11% Chinese and 5% others. Of the total electorate, we have about 4,000 postal voters from the police force and the army.
Bagan Pinang (Port Dickson) is also 1.5 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur and 30 minutes from Seremban. I know some people who would dispute that and proudly say they can do much less than that, but we will leave them to their impending appointments with the hospitals on that. The close proximity to KL and Seremban along with its given status as a popular beach area with many resorts and hotels basically tell us that the locals (ie the electorate) are quite balanced in terms of education and have been exposed to news and the happenings in KL and so on. They also read the papers and are very up-to-date with all current issues and whatever is happening in Malaysia and around the world. There are also many housing developments areas there to attest to the middle income theory. Even the kampung folks there are quite well exposed. Many work either in tourism related industries, the security force or small retail businesses (ie sundry shops and so on).
During the campaigning period, Pakatan Rakyat relentlessly attacked the BN candidate and BN on several issues:-
i. That YB Tan Sri Isa is corrupted.
ii. That BN is a corrupted party.
iii. That BN is a gangster party that causes havoc with its supporters being very violent and gangster like.
iv. That BN had was the cause of racial hatred with issues like the late A Kugan, Teoh Beng Hock and the cow head issue in Shah Alam being played over and over again by the PR in their speeches, banners and leaflets to the public.
However, YB Tan Sri Isa Samad won handsomely, with an increased majority (double last time’s majority) of 5,435 votes. To be honest, almost everyone expected BN to win through YB TS Isa, so winning was not a surprise. The shock is the number of votes garnered, and the majority that he won. The other thing bucking the trend this time is that the Chinese and Indian voters almost fully supported TS Isa Samad.
What does this mean? One thing I am happy about is that this shows a man who has served his punishment (UMNO disciplinary board found him guilty of money politics) and has repented can be given a second chance and can be accepted back to the society if he truly repents. Of course, what YAB DS Najib and YAB TS Muhyidiin have been doing for the last couple of months since taking over the helm are also starting to bear fruits and are appreciated by the rakyat.
But as important, if one were to analyse between other by-elections and Bagan Pinang, only two variable main factors. Firstly, as discussed above is the YAB PM and DPM, and secondly is the candidate. Just as recent as August, we had a by-election in Permatang Pasir. Granted it is a PR stronghold but the barrage of attacks on the BN candidate there was tremendous due to the various issues compared to Bagan Pinang where the electorate embraced and to some extent even defended the BN candidate.
This goes to show that apart from all other considerations like party hierarchy (post in the division), being seen clean and so on, the candidate’s closeness to the society at large and his/her contribution to the society plays a major role. His/Her personal touch with the rakyat is very important and will be a deciding factor more than party hierarchy and so on. The candidate must already have a history and must be able to connect with the grassroots going into any election.
Some say YB TS Isa won because of the postal votes from the army and police. True YB TS Isa got the lion’s share of the postal votes (BN - 3,521; PAS – 601) but his majority was 5,435, way above the postal votes.
One thing this whole exercise has taught us is that the candidate factor is of paramount importance. Gone were the days where you can put a “stump” and people will still vote for you because you are aligned to a certain party. The electorate are wiser now and would like to see their “Wakil Rakyat” doing work and contributing effectively apart from the party itself being relevant and developing the nation properly.
To many who are apolitical, this is important. To vote in the right candidates and right party who have the rakyat’s interest at heart.
A good lesson for all.