Pas takes KT in convincing win

By Adib Zalkapli and Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

In a major boost for the Pakatan Rakyat, Pas won the Kuala Terengganu by-election tonight in convincing fashion, with its candidate Abdul Wahid Endut taking the parliamentary seat by a 2,631-vote majority over his closest rival, Barisan Nasional's Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Salleh.

"Perhaps it is because I have known the voters for so long," said Wahid after his victory was announced. "I believe many of the Chinese voted for me."

With this win, the PR alliance increased its representation in Parliament to 82 seats, and while it does not significantly affect the balance of power, it provides the fledgling partnership of Pas, DAP and PKR a huge psychological advantage as it continues to try to destabilise and topple the BN government.

It is also the clearest sign yet that the PR alliance has not lost the support it obtained in the last general election, when it denied BN its traditional two-thirds majority in Parliament.

BN's defeat in Kuala Terengganu is also a significant setback for Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who led the ruling coalition's campaign and who is set to take power as prime minister in March when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi retires.

"In a democracy we respect the people's choice.

"Of course it's a setback for BN. We will continue to serve. It will not dishearten us," said Najib.

Asked what he thought this meant for BN's chances in the next general election, he said: "There is no impact."

With this defeat, BN still has 137 seats in Parliament, with one independent and two from SAPP. PR parties make up the remaining 82 lawmakers.

Wakaf Mempelam assemblyman Abdul Wahid defeated Wan Ahmad by 32,883 to 30,252 votes. Independent Azharudin Adam lost his deposit after obtaining only 193 votes. In last year's general election, BN won the seat by a wafer-thin 628 votes.

The turnaround for Pas shows the party not only managed to win over the crucial Chinese votes, which went BN's way last year, but also managed to claw back significant numbers of Malay votes which it had conceded to the ruling coalition previously.

The loss will cause BN to do some soul searching as it is the second by-election it has lost since March 8.

A victory in Kuala Terengganu would have represented a recovery from March 8, and provided a fillip for Najib as he prepares to take power.

But instead, Pas's win is likely to solidify PR's alliance and provide what Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim says will be renewed momentum to topple BN.

Pas president Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang said his party's win was a sign the people wanted change.

He also took the opportunity to pile pressure on Najib, and said that with this defeat for BN, it was perhaps better that Abdullah stays back as prime minister for now.

"I want Pak Lah to remain as PM to see through his reforms.

"Pak Lah has shown an open attitude and his leadership has brought much change," he said.

He cited as an example the willingness of the returning officer in the by-election to quit after complaints were made by Pas about his alleged biasness.