Changing voting trends among M’sians

"The by-election results in the two 'Bukits' have shown that even the older voters among the non-Malay [Malaysians] who traditionally voted for BN, have turned their back against BN," said a BN political operative.


The recently concluded three by-elections have shown a noticeable change in the voting trends of the Malay Malaysians and non-Malay Malaysians towards Barisan Nasional (BN) and the opposition.

Although BN managed to retain the Batang Ai state seat and the opposition parties, PKR and PAS, the Bukit Selambau state seat and Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat respectively, the marked change in the voting trends is something new compared to the 8 March general election last year.   

An analysis of the results shows some interesting facts, one of which is that non-Malay Malaysian support towards BN in the two "Bukits" has decreased dramatically with the opposition gaining their votes.

BN managed to have increased support from Malay Malaysian voters in Bukit Gantang, but the increase could not make up for the non-Malay Malaysian votes for PAS.

According to a political analyst, BN managed to increase its support among Malay Malaysian voters in Bukit Gantang by five per cent, from 53% in 2008 to 58% in the recent by-election.

But at the same time, BN suffered a sharp drop of about 13% of non-Malay Malaysian votes, from 35% in 2008 to 22%, Ong Kian Ming was reported as saying in Malaysiakini online news.

This development is worrying some of the BN component party leaders at various levels, sparking debate on why this is happening.

"The by-election results in the two 'Bukits' have shown that even the older voters among the non-Malay [Malaysians] who traditionally voted for BN, have turned their back against BN," said a BN political operative.

This is alarming as the results of the 2008 general election showed that the older non-Malay Malaysian voters had voted for BN despite the so-called "political tsunami" that swept Peninsular Malaysia.

"What is more worrying to us is that, the Chinese [Malaysian] rural voters also seem to have followed their counterparts in the urban seats, by voting against BN. This is something very unusual as we thought all this while the voting patterns between urban and rural were always different," he said.

No more 'scapegoat'

According to political analyst James Wong, the changing patterns indicated that the Chinese Malaysian voters were in the "defensive position" now as they did not like to be used as the "scapegoat".

"The non-Malay [Malaysians] have been quite tolerant for many years, but it has come to the point where they couldn't take it anymore. They have no choice but to strike back (by bucking the trend and supporting the opposition)," said Wong, who is a former politician.

The other factor was what he termed as a "transformation of PAS" because the opposition party had managed to project itself as more moderate and tolerant in matters related to culture and religion.

"The Chinese and Indian [Malaysians] seem to be more comfortable with PAS now," he said, adding that such voting pattern was likely to remain unless the non-Malay Malaysian voters were beginning to see a huge drastic change in Umno and BN.

"It won't go away, unless they see that Umno and BN have changed," he said.

Another political analyst, James Chin, said this voting pattern could be traced back from 1999 after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sacked from Umno, resulting in younger voters supporting the opposition, while despite the serious setback in the 2008 general election, BN had not changed.

"The non-Malay [Malaysian] voters are disappointed. Despite sending a strong signal in the general election last year, BN and Umno still did not change. This explains why there is a change in voting patterns among the elder non-Malay [Malaysian] voters and rural voters," he said.

However, Chin pointed out that this pattern might not be permanent if Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak could deliver and reform BN.

"Traditionally, there are 30 to 35% of non-Malay [Malaysians] who support BN and 40 to 45% who are hardcore supporters of the opposition. The rest are floating voters.

"This is why I believe they may come back to BN if Najib can deliver," he added.

This, according to Chin, would also depend on how fast the economy could recover and how Umno could reform itself.