BN captures the Chinese vote


The thumping victories in the dual by-elections signal that Barisan Nasional is on the comeback trail, with the Chinese vote swinging back.

Joceline Tan, The Star

THE political tsunami has retreated and the wind is blowing in Barisan Nasional’s favour once again.

Barisan swept to a landslide victory in both seats, winning Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar with massive majorities.

The “referendum”, as some have termed the by-elections, has gone the way of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The wins prove that Barisan is still the king in these Malay heartland type of seats but the icing on the cake was the return of Chinese votes to Barisan.

There has been a big Chinese swing back that will be the talk of the town in the days to come.

The coalition did very well in Sekinchan, the Chinese heart of Sungai Besar. Sekinchan is 80% Chinese and a notorious DAP stronghold.

Barisan won a lot of goodwill when it brought home two Sekinchan fishermen who were detained in Indonesia.

In Kuala Kangsar, Barisan won back Jerlun new village, a black area and epicentre of the opposition in 2013, securing some 57% of the votes.

This is despite DAP bringing in heavy artillery like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to campaign there.

Perak MCA chief Datuk Seri Dr Mah Hang Soon’s numerous rounds of door-to-door campaigns paid off.

“There is a tremendous warming-up of Chinese votes towards Barisan. It is a turning point for us,” said Dr Mah who is also a Perak executive councillor.

Amanah came in last in Kuala Kangsar and second in Sungai Besar where it was saved by the Chinese vote.

DAP went everywhere in orange to promote the new party, dragging Dr Mahathir along with them but their efforts failed to bear fruit.

It was a case of once bitten, twice shy – voters, especially the Chinese, bought into DAP’s sales pitch about PAS in 2013 and not many of them wanted to be played out again.

It is yet another wake-up call for DAP which has been taking the Chinese vote for granted. The rhetoric of DAP leaders has not been matched by delivery.

The party is now in two state governments and people want solutions to their daily lives but DAP leaders spend too much time indulging in political rhetoric and raising issues without offering solutions.

DAP’s finale ceramah in the centre of Sekinchan town on Friday night was meant to seal in the Chinese vote.

But it was missing energy, excitement and people. There were almost as many empty chairs as people.

Some blamed the MCA concert, featuring a famous Hokkien singer from Taiwan, going on in the nearby temple compound. It was standing room only over there and the audience was singing along to all the songs.

Ng Suee Lim, the local DAP strongman and Sekinchan assemblyman, is very popular but his party’s strategy to ride on national issues like 1MDB and the RM2.6bil donation flopped big-time.

The issues were too big and complex and went right over the heads of the local folk. They were not interested in taking a stand on issues they did not understand.

In hindsight, Barisan’s man in Sungai Besar, Budiman Mohd Zohdi, was the one with his feet firmly on the ground.

He is the original kampung boy who could tell his audience when the first KFC came to town, he remembered when a matinee in the cinema cost only 40 sen and he would point out the Hainanese kopitiam where his father likes to eat.

He spoke about local issues and promised relevant things like upgrading the market in Sekinchan which is shamefully rundown.

In fact, only the Barisan candidates in the two seats voted.

The other candidates were all imported and that is not the way things are done in the Malay heartland.

It has been a hard landing for Amanah and it showed in the body language of Amanah president Mohamad Sabu – he has not been his bubbly self and his trademark heh-heh-heh grin was missing.

Amanah’s dependence on the Chinese vote does not augur well for the party.

Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar were exactly the sort of seats that DAP had in mind for Amanah.

But the results show it cannot deliver the Malay vote and is struggling to replace PAS in Pakatan Harapan.

As for PAS, the party feels vindicated that its rival has been put in its place.

PAS cannot rival Umno in Selangor but the results show that its supporters did not stray to Amanah.

Barisan will never recover the kind of supremacy it enjoyed during its golden years but it is on the comeback trail.

Pakatan Harapan enjoyed a brief golden period but it squandered the opportunity and lost the momentum.