DAP’s downfall in Teluk Intan came from being overconfident, say analysts

Khoo Kay Peng

Jennifer Gomez, The Malaysian Insider

DAP’s overconfidence in keeping Teluk Intan, and not voters’ disillusionment with Pakatan Rakyat (PR), was the cause behind the loss of the seat, say analysts.

They told The Malaysian Insider that the time frame of just a year after the 13th general election was too short for the electorate to be disappointed with PR over its handling of key issues mostly centred on the state of Selangor, or for Teluk Intan voters to “punish” the opposition coalition.

Moreover, not all Teluk Intan voters reside in Selangor, where PR is in its second term as the state government but is facing resentment over water shortages, the seizure of Malay and Iban Bibles and a controversial private expressway.

“One year of disillusionment pales in comparison to more than 60 years of what is essentially corrupt BN rule so I don’t think this argument holds water,” political analyst Dr Oh Ei Sun told The Malaysian Insider.

“The lower voter turnout is more the case of them thinking that this by-election would be a sure win for DAP,” he added.

Instead, the analyst from Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies believed DAP lost to BN’s superior election machinery on the ground.

“DAP usually wins by mass appeal but in a close race like this, the election machinery on the ground really matters, so DAP needs to work hard on strengthening this area,” said Oh.

There were also claims that DAP’s Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud candidature had caused unhappiness among the party’s grassroots who had wanted a local, although this was quickly addressed by its leaders in the early days of the political newbie’s campaigning.

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng (picture) also said while some voters might have been disillusioned by PR’s problems in Selangor as well as its poor handling of the contentious hudud issue, not all voters from the semi-urban seat are currently living or working in the country’s richest and most industrialised state.

He said one of the reasons that contributed to BN’s victory was because rival DAP adopted the wrong strategy, adding the party appeared arrogant and overconfident in the run-up to the by-election.

“Their contention that ‘a win was in the bag’ and gloats over the huge number of people who attended their ceramah as a sign of victory were wrong,” he said.

At its final ceramah on the eve of Saturday’s polling, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang claimed some 20,000 attended the event; at the same time, news portal Malaysiakini reported that only a measly 70 attended BN’s ceramah.

“Towards the end, some leaders did warn that Dyana only had a 47% chance of winning and urged outstation voters to return but that message caught on too late,” said Khoo.

Political newbie Dyana was narrowly defeated by BN’s Datuk Mah Siew Keong 238 votes.

Mah, who is Gerakan president, obtained 20,157 votes against Dyana’s 19,919. There were 550 spoilt votes.

Mah was a two-term Teluk Intan MP after winning the federal seat in the 1999 and 2004 general elections. But since then, he lost to M. Manogaran (in 2008 by 1,830 votes) and Seah Leong Peng in 2013, by 7,313 votes), both of DAP.

Voter turnout was poor this time at  66.7%, compared with 80.7% in GE13 and this proved detrimental to DAP as it was a sign that people do not take by-elections seriously.

“There have to be compelling reasons to return to vote and people don’t do that for by-elections. This is unlike a general election, where people know there could be a change of government,” said Monash University Malaysia’s Professor James Chin.