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The test in Bukit Gantang


(© Stillgray / flickr)

KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional (BN) will face an uphill battle in the upcoming Bukit Gantang by-election, with the played-up “derhaka” issue not expected to be sustainable.

“It will be a test case of whether there is more Hang Jebat or Hang Tuah,” said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.

He said the current transfer of government was not from the Chinese [Malaysians] to the Malay [Malaysians] even though there was much talk about how DAP dominated the Pakatan Rakyat government in Perak.

“The people of Perak accepted the arrangement,” he said, adding that Malay [Malaysians] were looking for quality government even though Umno had played up the “ketuanan Melayu” issue in the past two general elections.

Khoo said there was also growing dissatisfaction of the social class.

“Most reactions in the blogs (regarding the Perak crisis) were from Malay [Malaysians] and many mentioned Islam,” he added. “Islam does not support feudalism but instead promotes equality. The concept of “derhaka” is difficult to sustain.

“The signs are not pointing to that. There is a danger to use that because politics will be more polarised,” said Khoo, adding he did not think the “derhaka” issue will resonate with the Malay [Malaysians]. This will make Bukit Gantang a difficult battle for BN.

As for the non-Malay [Malaysian] votes, Khoo said that based on the last general election, the Chinese and Indian [Malaysian] votes had swung towards the opposition and would remain there.

“I don’t see MCA making any impact,” he added. “If Umno plays a very Malay agenda, MCA and Gerakan cannot fit in. It will scare the non-Malay [Malaysians].”

Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin’s 10-month administration will also be a factor in this by-election as people will gauge their experience with the PAS-led government which has to date made several populist decisions such as land matters that have gone down well with Perakians.

“The voters would also take into account that the three defections were dubious and personal in nature. These three persons, where two were charged for corruption while another switched sides because she was disgruntled with certain personalities in the party, had determined the transition of government,” Khoo said.

Another political analyst, Wong Chin Huat, said the non-Malay [Malaysian] vote swing would be even bigger than 8 March.

“I won’t be surprised if BN’s share of votes falls to 35% or [if they] obtain only one-third of the votes,” he said. BN managed to garner 47% of the votes in Bukit Gantang during the general election last year.

“I cannot see how Dr Mah Hang Soon (from BN) can go down to campaign for the Chinese [Malaysian] votes,” said Wong.

On the “derhaka” issue, he said that Umno was unwittingly creating a new divide by tying Malay nationalism with [the] monarchy closer than before.

He said by trying to pin down allegations of PAS as “menderhaka”, it would cause the party to resort to religion and would result in religious republicanism.

“Pushed to a corner, they (PAS) would go back to the teaching of the Quran and the role of the rulers would be questioned,” said Wong, adding that the “derhaka” issue may even bring the non-Malay [Malaysians] and PAS closer than before.

Wong said the situation was hopeless for BN in Bukit Gantang and the best strategy for BN was to play it low key.

“If they concede defeat in advance, then people may not be so motivated to punish them harshly. If they try to fight, then the result may be even worse.

“The question now is how low can they go in terms of votes,” said Wong, adding that there was already talk by people in Bukit Gantang that they want to see BN lose its deposit, which would be unprecedented.

The late Roslan Shaharum won by 1,566 majority against Umno treasurer Datuk Abdul Azim Mohd Zabidi. Bukit Gantang has three state assembly seats namely Changkat Jering, Kuala Sapetang and Trong.


This analysis first appeared on 11 Feb 2009 in The Edge Financial Daily under the title Bukit Gantang: A Jebat or Tuah test for BN. Used with permission.

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2 Responses to “The test in Bukit Gantang”

  1. sunny says:

    I agree that BN losing its deposit will be the clearest message the people can send to the federal govt: that we want quality governance.

  2. Mr Smith says:

    This is one election which can be won by Pakatan even without any campaigning. Hatred for BN alone will deliver the votes. Even the illegal partnership of Umno + Police + EC will not save BN.


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