KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 — On July 4 at the Chini by-election, Umno candidate Mohd Sharim Md Zain garnered 13,872 votes to defeat his two independent opponents Tengku Datuk Zainul Hisham Tengku Hussin, who polled 1,222 votes and Mohd Shukri Mohd Ramli who only managed to secure 137 votes.
At the 14th general election in 2018, Shahrim’s predecessor, the late Datuk Seri Abu Bakar Harun received 10,027 votes while Mohd Fadhil Noor Abdul Karim (PAS) garnered 5,405 votes and Mohd Razali Ithnain (PKR) who only got 1,065 votes.
A simple addition shows that BN could have received some 15,000 votes under the Muafakat Nasional banner but the results were just shy of this, leaving observers to postulate that this could be a sign of some unhappiness between Umno and PAS.
(Muafakat Nasional is a political pact between Umno and PAS which was established last September.)
Universiti Sains Malaysia political scientist Sivamurugan Pandian said that the lower numbers could be caused by concerns over Covid-19 but pointed out that the by-election saw higher young voter turnouts.
“Despite Covid-19, the turnout was high although not as high as GE14. With 73.67 per cent of voter turnout, the majority is high. Both independent candidates lost their deposits.
While the by-election was a good opportunity for Umno and PAS to test their combined machinery, what is “more pertinent is the young voters who turned out in higher numbers to support Muafakat Nasional.”
Independent political and economic analyst Hoo Ke Ping also agrees with Sivamurugam that the lower voter turnout could be attributed to Covid-19.
“I suppose for the voters there, it is just another by-election which they know Umno will win again. Not to mention by-elections always have a lower voter turnout compared to a general election.
“I don’t think it is really indicative of anything troubling for Muafakat Nasional but there are always issues on the ground. Also worth mentioning is that people could still be concerned over Covid-19 and some who are working out of state may not have returned,’’ he said.
For Oh Ei Sun, a Senior Fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, the smaller voting bloc numbers could be attributed to a lack of “enthusiastic co-operation” between PAS and Umno at the grassroots level.
“I don’t think the so-called PAS votes went somewhere else, I think PAS was not as enthusiastic at pulling out all its voters because they knew this is an Umno seat... Umno is a sure win, it is only a matter of the majority. So PAS grassroots thought they don’t need to work so hard because it is an Umno majority seat,’’ he said.
However, Oh pointed out that it could be a much more different scenario if a fresh general election is called and all the votes are needed to form a huge majority.
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