Happy to stick with the opposition

(The Straits Times) KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 —Islamic party PAS won convincingly on Tuesday in the Bukit Gantang constituency, which has a sizeable Malay majority. But even the party has acknowledged that it lost the support of some Malays to the Barisan Nasional, and that its win was mainly due to bigger support from Chinese voters.

PAS said it did not do too badly as the drop in the Malay votes was by only four percentage points.

It won 43 per cent of the Malay votes this time around, compared with 47 per cent in the general election in March last year, Perak PAS deputy chief Asmuni Awi told reporters yesterday in Perak.

“The drop in Malay votes, as claimed by analysts, was not that much. We expected to get around 40 per cent but we got 43 per cent,” he was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insider online news.

“Even if we lost some Malay votes, the urban Malay votes saw an increase, due to better access to information.”

The Malay vote was prized because it constituted nearly 64 per cent of the 55,562 registered voters in the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat. If a large number of Malay voters had swung back to BN, PAS could have easily lost the seat.

The battle was also important as both BN, which put up an Umno candidate, and PAS wanted to claim they have Malaysia's majority race solidly behind them.

BN had accused the PAS candidate Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin of being a “stooge” of Chinese leaders of the DAP, and selling out the interests of Malays in Perak.

Both PAS and DAP are members of the three-party alliance Pakatan Rakyat. The third party is Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

BN had also portrayed Nizar, who was mentri besar of Perak until his government was ousted by BN, as having committed treason against the Sultan — a grievous offence among Malays. This was because Nizar did not accept Sultan Azlan Shah's decision in February to pass the state government to BN.

But the insignificant drop in the Malay vote for PAS shows that the tactic has failed. “Portraying Nizar as pro-Chinese and also… alleging treason seem to have very little impact on Malay voters. However, it serves only to drive away the non-Malay voters,” MCA deputy president Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek wrote in his blog.

The Malay support for the opposition has big implications for BN and new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

It shows not only that his Umno-led coalition has lost many Chinese and Indian voters since last year, but also that a significant number of the Malays are happy to continue supporting the opposition.

Opposition leader Datuk seri Anwar Ibrahim told a news conference yesterday: “The entire BN campaign strategy, other than the Malay agenda, is that we have a new leader who is committed to champion the cause of Malays and all races, in fact One Malaysia, but that has crumbled.”