The Two-Sided Implications of Manek Urai

By Farish A. Noor

No amount of spin can alter the implications of the by-election results at Manek Urai. No matter how one looks at it, a victory by a margin of 65 votes hardly counts as a triumph by any stretch of the imagination; and though the seat has fallen once again into the hands of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party PAS, the taste of the victory has to be a bitter one at best.

And while UMNO, the arch-nemesis of PAS cannot claim this to be a victory for them either, their defeat has been cushioned by the realisation that the voters of Malek Urai were almost entirely divided on the issue of which was the better party to choose.

Understanding and analysing the causes and implications of the by-election results will take some time, and all factors will have to be drawn into the equation. There are, however several conclusions that can be drawn from this latest development in the saga of Malaysia’s convoluted politics, and they are as follows:

For a start, the near-win (or for some, near-loss) of PAS at Malek Urai comes at a time when the meager statistics we have at our disposal would suggest that the Najib administration has begun to pull the proverbial carpet out from under the feet of the opposition. By touching the right buttons and by taking up some of the causes that were made public by the opposition, the BN government has not only anticipated the mood of the public and their wants, but are in a position to deliver the goods thanks to the position they hold at the Federal level. The plans to scrap the teaching of Maths and Science in English, the liberalisation of the economy, the gradual dismantling of some of the structures of the NEP; were all issues raised by parties like PAS and DAP, but have now been taken up by UMNO and the BN instead. It is significant that Najib’s popularity rating has risen 20 points to 65 per cent; but more significantly, his popularity among Malay-Muslim Malaysians has passed the 70 per cent mark.


These factors need to be borne in mind by an opposition that is instead wasting its time fighting against itself and showing precious little sign of unity and cohesion of purpose, precisely when it is needed most. Failure to unite on a series of clearly-defined programmes will be detrimental to the PR at this point, as will the failure to take Najib seriously for he is not a Badawi in the making.

But how do we read the results of Manek Urai and what are the implications and consequences for PAS and the PR in the short to medium term?