Tanjung Piai loss has nothing to do with perception, but performance

P Ramasamy, Free Malaysia Today

So, we finally are led to believe that the two dominant perceptions were the ones that caused the defeat of Pakatan Harapan in the Tanjung Piai by-election recently.

The DAP was the common denominator in both the perceptions; one was that the DAP controlled and manipulated the PH coalition, and the other that was common among the Chinese was that the DAP was at the mercy of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his party PPBM.

Both the perceptions prevailed to effectively deny the PH a much-sought after victory after more than a year in office.

It is strange that Mahathir termed the perceptions, one contrary to the other, a balanced perspective on why the PH lost the by-election.

Since both perceptions were political in nature and very much contrary to reality, I wonder how they can even be considered as an explanation for PH’s defeat.

It is not that perceptions are not important, but they are more based on politics, fake news, untruths and propaganda.

It would be demeaning to say that Malays and Chinese voters were unthinking and easily susceptible to political propaganda emanating from political parties, and have little or no desire for inter-racial harmony and unity.

Perceptions alone are not sufficient to explain electoral behaviour. If they are based on certain ground reality, their impact might be there. By focusing on perceptions or attitudes, let us not side-step the real causes of the defeat.

Only when we objectively and openly debate the promises of PH and the performance of the government and ministers in the last one year and eight months is there is a possibility to ascertain the truth.

In fact, it is not that the majority of Malays deserted PH, but they abandoned PPBM, simply because Mahathir or its leaders could not galvanise Malay support even with the Malay Dignity Congress.

In other words, PPBM was a poor competitor to Umno and PAS.

It would be more sensible for Mahathir to hold PPBM responsible for the lack of Malay support for PH.

Chinese voters in Tanjung Piai had high expectations of DAP after it became a powerful component of PH. The party was in its top form on the eve of the last general election as a result of support from Chinese and Indians.

However, the support for DAP among non-Malays, primarily the Chinese, has declined for a variety of reasons having their roots in the non-implementation of the PH manifesto.

To the Chinese voters in Tunjung Piai, their vote for BN was a protest vote against DAP for not standing up and saying no to a number of issues. It is not that they were going to abandon DAP forever, but merely to register their displeasure against DAP.

It is not that they loved BN or MCA. BN’s victory was not that the Chinese had switched their loyalty, but a default one.

I might not be sure whether the voters regarded DAP as under the total captivity of PPBM or Mahathir, but its performance was not up to the mark.

It might even be the question of whether the ministers had the opportunity to excel in their ministerial functions.

P Ramasamy is a DAP central executive committee member and Penang deputy chief minister II