(From left) PKR vice-president Azmin Ali, DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng,
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, his wife and PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and PAS vice-president
Datuk Husam Musa celebrate Anwar’s victory in the Permatang Pauh by-election (Click on photo to view video)
THE minute polling ended at 5pm on 26 Aug 2008, Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters vacated their pondok panas in front of the Tuanku Bainun Teacher’s Institute, which was a polling centre for the much anticipated Permatang Pauh by-election.
The school, in front of the counting centre for the by-election, had been the pondok panas site for both the BN and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). In most cases, supporters from all contesting parties would hang around the counting centre, but in what was a sign of PKR candidate Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s imminent victory, BN supporters left the area the minute polling closed for the 58,459 registered voters in this Penang parliamentary constituency.
Conversely, since 3pm, PKR supporters were pouring into the area under the watchful eyes of Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel, their numbers swelling in the field in front of the Institute. Police said there were at least 50,000 supporters on the field and streaming in from the outside the area.
The mood was electrifying.
Even before the results were announced, PKR division leaders were supremely confident. By 7pm, people were declaring, “Sudah menang. Sudah menang.”
By 8pm, the PKR crowd completely dominated the space in front of the school. No BN supporters were in sight. On nomination day, the field had been divided into three areas — a buffer area separating the BN supporters from their Pakatan Rakyat counterparts. On the night of polling day, the police allowed the PKR supporters to fill up what was the buffer zone.
The vote counting within the centre was displayed on big outdoor screens, displaying to the crowd outside that Anwar took nearly all the votes from all the ballot boxes. Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia (Akim)’s Hanafi Hamat never got more than 10 votes in any one peti undi.
PKR supporters cheer Anwar’s winAs the scent of victory became more pungent, the PKR supporters became more enthusiastic, chanting “Reformasi!” The minute the results were announced — that Anwar had won by a majority of 15,671 votes over the BN’s Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah — the crowd went wild. Mid-level party leaders had to calm the overexcited crowd with “Bertenang, bertenang.”
In the end, the results were conclusive: Anwar had won the parliamentary by-election. He obtained 31,195 votes, while BN candidate Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah received 15,524 votes, and Akim candidate Hanafi Hamat had only 92 votes.
Ini mesti sejarah
The minute Pakatan Rakyat leaders began walking up to the stage in front of the field of supporters, the crowd began chanting their names and then singing the national anthem.
Anwar was flanked by his wife, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and their daughter Lembah Pantai Member of Parliament (MP) Nurul Izzah; DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and party adviser Lim Kit Siang; PKR vice-president Azmin Ali and information chief Tian Chua; and PAS treasurer Dr Hatta Ramli and vice-president Datuk Husam Musa. Even PKR MP for Kelana Jaya Loh Gwo Burne was on stage.
The minute Anwar appeared, the crowd went crazy. Fireworks were launched in the distance for a minute within the field’s vicinity. The crowd chanted “Anwar PM”, “Reformasi” and “Putrajaya”. The flashbulbs were like strobe lights that could have triggered an epileptic fit.
The crowd even chanted “Esok cuti! Esok cuti”, to which Anwar pointed to Guan Eng, the Penang chief minister.
Anwar credited his victory as the people’s victory.
“The Malaysian people want independence. Today we want change, we want independence.
“People are rejecting exploitation and racial politics. We want freedom of the press and judicial independence. And an economic agenda that fairly distribute resources to all races. This is a big beginning,” he said.
On reducing petrol prices, Anwar reiterated: “The price of petrol will only go down when we reach Putrajaya.”
Each leader had to give short speeches to placate the crowd’s hunger for more. It was only when the leaders recited prayers that the crowd fell silent.
“Ini mesti sejarah,” people were saying as others held up their mobile phones to take Anwar’s picture or to call someone to let them hear Anwar speak.
Justice to all
In a space of about 12 feet by 12 feet, a quick press conference was held. Possibly 100 journalists and photographers hung on to every word.
Anwar announced that there was no reason for his swearing into Parliament to be delayed. “The democratic process must be observed and the people’s sentiments respected.”
He expressed confidence that the sodomy charges against him would not have an impact on him as parliamentary opposition leader.
“There is no case. There should not be any charges as it is a political ploy to embarrass me,” he said.
When asked when he would become Malaysia’s prime minister, as he has openly declared he would do should he be voted into Parliament, Anwar coyly replied: “Nanti dulu.”
Kit Siang said he saw no reason why Anwar couldn’t be sworn in by 28 Aug at the latest. “Pakatan Rakyat has agreed that Anwar will be the opposition leader.
“We will send in the letter to the Speaker (of the Dewan Rakyat) tomorrow (29 Aug) on Anwar’s appointment, and we would like to see Anwar start on Thursday, so that he can sit directly opposite the prime minister during the budget announcement,” he added.
PAS vice-president Husam said the by-election results demonstrated that the BN’s policies were obsolete. “We need policies that will do justice to all races in Malaysia,” he said, brushing aside the Umno-PAS talks as just a “gimmick”.
Malaysian democracy “still alive”
The Barisan Nasional pondok panas in Lengkok TenggiriEarlier, at a press conference in Bukit Mertajam, deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the BN respected voters’ decision, noting that the results of the by-election proved that democracy was still alive in the country.
“As we have pointed out right from the start, we were facing a tough challenge,” Najib, who is also in charge of the BN’s election campaign, said, according to a Bernama report.
In this by-election, the number of votes garnered by the BN dropped by 1,426 votes compared with the March 2008 general election. Najib said the BN would study and address the weaknesses of the coalition.
He added, however, that although the PKR had won the parliamentary seat, the number of opposition members in Parliament did not increase.
Najib said although the BN had initially expected to reduce the PKR majority, it failed because the sentiments of the Permatang Pauh residents for PKR were still strong.
“Although we lost, the BN will fulfil its pledges to the people of Permatang Pauh.”
Still, there was no doubt that the night belonged to the Pakatan Rakyat. For once, at least at the counting centre in Permatang Pauh, it was a BN-free zone.