Recently, we’ve been seeing a lot of news pieces about Pakatan Harapan (PH) losing a lot of by-elections to the opposition, specifically Barisan Nasional (BN). And most of them have been dubbed “wake-up calls” by these new portals. And it got us wondering, how many wake-up calls does PH really need?
Seriously, look at this:
So far, there have been ten by-elections in the short time period since GE14, seeking to replace vacant seats in Parliament. ( ꒪Д꒪)
Just so you don’t confuse it with general elections, a by-election is only held to fill one vacant seat in Parliament and only those who are citizens within the constituency are eligible to vote. More often than not, by-elections only occur when a Parliament member (MP) resigns or dies.
With the seemingly endless coming and going of politicians in office, we thought we could do a recap for your future reference – maybe even do a tally showdown.
But to do this, we are going tally it as PH vs Opposition, rather than listing down all the parties, to make it easier for you
and reduce the writer’s chances for a headache. And in that sense, any party that is not PH, it’s opposition – in this article, anyway.
August 2018: Sungai Kandis
With the unprecedented win of PH in GE14 still fresh in mind, Sungai Kandis became the first of many to be launched into a polling session. But even though there were three candidates running, it was expected to be a two-pronged fight between PH and BN. Kesian the independent tho 🙁
PAS, who weren’t allies with BN at the time, had decided to bow out of the by-election to make way for BN… though the party insisted that they should not be assumed to be working together. There was no political cooperation here – that was only signed in September 2019.
“We are not going down to the ground to help in campaigning…How can we be together? We are from different parties.” – PAS vice-president Mohd Amar Abdullah, as quoted by The Star
On polling day, voter turnout was…meh, where only 45% of voters turned up to cast their ballot. Though the low turnout didn’t exactly affect Zawai’s chances of winning with 15,427 votes; sure, it was with a lower majority, as compared to when the late Shuhaimi won in GE14, but hey, that’s a win for PH!
September 2018: Balakong
Why: Incumbent PH assemblyman Eddie Ng Tien Chee abruptly passed away from a traffic accident
On the 20th of July, 2018, incumbent Balakong assemblyman Eddie Ng Tien Chee unexpectedly died in a car accident in Cheras – he was believed to have been on his way home for dinner – bringing about another by-election only a month after Sungai Kandis’.
Once again, PAS had decided to abstain from this by-election, saying that it would be a waste of time and effort. Therefore, it became another two-pronged fight between PH and BN. However, despite not participating, PAS had urged voters to vote for BN candidate Tan.
Despite the efforts in campaigning, Tan ended up losing against Wong, who won with a majority of 22,508 votes, as compared with Tan’s 3,975 votes. However, the by-election also recorded a new low in voter turnout at only 43%.
September 2018: Seri Setia
Why: Incumbent Seri Setia PH assemblyman Shaharuddin Baharuddin abruptly passed away from colon cancer
Just three months after GE14, Seri Setia’s incumbent assemblyman from PH was declared to have passed away from colon cancer, almost around the same time as Eddie Ng’s (from the previous point) accident. Within just a few months, three PH assemblymen had passed away, which also paved up the way for a third by-election in as many months.
But this time, it was a two-pronged fight between PH and PAS. Apparently, BN had decided to abstain from contesting to make way for PAS in the polls, claiming it was a reciprocation for PAS’s move to make way for them during the Sungai Kandis polls. This move was even seen as a “starting point and understanding between both parties for a new political movement“.
“We will work our best to help PAS campaign in Seri Setia. I myself will be there to assist the PAS candidate.” – BN deputy president Mohamad Hassan, as quoted by NST
Towards the end of campaigning days, Halimah from PAS was heavily criticized for accusing the PH candidate of being a “local boy” with an “outdated mentality“, which was seen as a jab against Halimey’s origins. And that little statement might have contributed to voters’ decision.
Seri Setia’s by-election was held on the same day as Balakong’s, and PH ended up obtaining 13,725 votes against PAS’s 9,698 votes – marking simultaneous victories for PH in two constituencies.
October 2018: Port Dickson
Why: Incumbent Port Dickson MP from PH Danyal Balagopal Abdullah resigned
- Anwar Ibrahim (PH)
- Mohd Nazari Mokhtar (PAS)
- Mohd Isa Abdul Samad (Independent)
- Stevie Chan Kee Leong (Independent)
- Lau Seck Yan (Independent)
- Kan Chee Yuen (Independent)
- Saiful Bukhari Azlan (Independent)
After PKR president Anwar Ibrahim was released from prison and ready to dive back into the national political scene, the incumbent PH MP Danyal gracefully resigned to make way for Anwar to retake his seat. However, the move was panned by many, with some claiming that it was disappointing to the voters who voted for Danyal.
“He can consider himself lucky if his name is inscribed in history as a mere mention of an MP who has resigned.” – Patriot president Mohamed Arshad Raji, as quoted by FMT
It was such a controversial move that a Port Dickson voter filed a judicial review to declare Danyal’s resignation as unconstitutional and cancel the by-election. This application for review was soon dismissed by the Election Court.
At the end of the day, even when faced with some resistance, Anwar managed to storm his way to a victory with 72% of the votes, edging out his competitors with a vast majority. This marked his official return to Parliament since imprisonment and was also seen as a step forward for Anwar to become the 8th Prime Minister.
“This victory is an important milestone and a vote of confidence for the Pakatan Harapan government and the reform agenda and the Prime Minister personally.” – Anwar, as quoted by The Straits Times
January 2019: Cameron Highlands
Why: Election Court’s declaration of the victory of incumbent BN MP Sivarraajh Chandran as null and void
- Manogaran Marimuthu (PH)
- Ramli Mohd Nor (BN)
- Sallehudin Ab Talib (Independent)
- Wong Seng Yee (Independent)
After GE14, Manogaran filed an electoral petition that challenged the results for the Cameron Highlands seat, claiming that bribery had taken place. And in December 2018, the Election Court ruled in Manogaran’s favor, declaring Sivarraajh’s victory null and void, thus opening up a vacant seat in Cameron Highlands. Sivarraajh was also subsequently banned from running in polls for five years.
But during the campaigning period of the Cameron Highlands by-elections, controversies surrounded PH like a hive of bees. For one, Manogaran was accused of making racially insensitive remarks about Orang Asli, for which he apologized later.
Not only that, PH was accused of bribery after photographs showing a woman wearing a PH shirt handing out money went viral, but the coalition soon disputed the accusations by saying:
“I would like to stress that it is reimbursement of petrol costs to PH volunteers who came on their own motorcycles to lend support on nomination day from the interior of Tanah Rata.” – PH aide Arvind Baret, as quoted by NST
These issues might have affected the people’s confidence in PH, because for the first time since GE14, BN won the by-election, with Ramli obtaining 12,038 votes, against the 8,800 votes for Manogaran. Cameron Highlands saw the highest voter turnout for by-elections since GE14 – and BN’s win was seen as a morale booster after being toppled.
March 2019: Semenyih
Why: Semenyih’s incumbent assemblyman from PH Bakhtiar Mohd Nor suffered a heart attack and died
- Muhammad Aiman Zainali (PH)
- Zakaria Hanafi (BN)
- Nik Aziz Afiq Abdul (PSM)
- Kuan Chee Heng (Independent)
Thus far, all the by-elections since GE14 have been triggered by unexpected deaths, including this one. But this by-election wasn’t exactly peaceful.
To start with, a Semenyih voter filed an injunction that challenged the validity of the Election Commission (EC), which was only run by Azhar Azizan Harun alone at the time. As a result, YDP Agong appointed five more people to run the EC alongside the chairman, to avoid delays of the by-election.
And things also might have gotten violent on nomination day, when BN supporters allegedly chased after Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq near the nomination center, almost assaulting him if not for the policemen accompanying him.
“The group of five people turned aggressive and pushed to assault the minister. Fortunately, police who were present there managed to control the situation.” – PPBM Youth assistant secretary Ahmad Redzuan Mohamed Shafi, as quoted by Malaysiakini
It was also reported that Syed Saddiq wasn’t the only one who was almost attacked, as PSM members and supporters were heckled at as well.
But despite these issues, they didn’t seem to deter the voters. On polling day, the voter turnout in Semenyih was found to be much higher than the previous by-elections, recording at 73.35%. And out of all these voters, 19,780 of them voted for BN, surpassing the 17,866 votes for PH. While it was a fairly narrow win, BN won a by-election for the second time in a row.
April 2019: Rantau
Why: The election of incumbent BN MP Mohamad Hasan was declared null and void
In GE14, Mohamad actually won the Rantau seat uncontested, because Streram was denied entry to the nomination center to file his nomination papers at the time. The PH candidate was barred from filing his papers because Streram did not have an EC pass with him, which was a requirement to file a nomination.
After Mohamad had won, the Election Court ruled that Mohamad’s election was invalid and called for a by-election in Rantau, in which Streram was allowed to run.
Throughout the campaigning period, Mohamad’s party had been accused of racism, such as hanging banners that contain racist messages. On polling day itself, it was suspected that there were extra ballot boxes being transported, causing PH supporters to search the police cars, but that turned out to be a false alarm.
However, even then, Mohamad still managed to edge out his competitors with a total of 10,397 votes, making this the third consecutive by-election win for BN after Cameron Highlands and Semenyih.
May 2019: Sandakan
Why: Incumbent MP from PH Wong Tien Fatt suffered a heart attack and passed away
- Vivian Wong Shir Yee (PH)
- Linda Tsen Thau Lin (PBS)
- Hamzah Abdullah (Independent)
- Chia Siew Yung (Independent)
- Sulaiman Abdul Samat (Independent)
One of the candidates, Vivian Wong, is Wong Tien Fatt’s daughter, and had pledged to continue her father’s unfinished work of working for Sandakans. Meanwhile, BN had chosen to not participate as well, claiming that the coalition was not yet ready to run for the seat.
As polling day drew near, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced development projects worth RM2.28billion in Sandakan. That naturally attracted criticism from the opposition, alleging that the government was trying to buy votes from Sandakans.
“Surprisingly, now that there’s a by-election, Lim has RM2.8 billion for the people of Sandakan. Is this an act of fishing for votes?” – Kinabatangan MP Bung Mokhtar, as quoted by FMT
In addition, Vivian drew flak over a program to clean a Muslim cemetery, with some calling it a political gimmick to draw votes. Soon after, Vivian apologized for it, claiming she had no intentions of causing unease among the Muslim community.
November 2019: Tanjung Piai
Why: Incumbent MP from PH Mohd Farid Md Rafik passed away from a sudden heart attack
- Karmaine Sardini (PH)
- Wee Jeck Seng (BN)
- Wendy Subramaniam (Gerakan)
- Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz (Berjasa)
- Ang Chuan Lock (Independent)
- Faridah Aryani Abd Ghaffar (Independent)
The Tanjung Piai by-election would be the sixth by-election that was triggered by an incumbent’s death, which came as a surprise to many, as Farid was only 42 years old.
Karmaine’s candidacy was seemingly unexpected, especially for BN, because they were under the impression that Malaysia under PH administration would “allow more space for young candidates“, but Karmaine was already 66 years old. BN ended up nominating a 55-year-old Wee as its candidate.
However, throughout the campaigning period, the government came under a lot of fire when it announced a RM3million allocation for the Tanjung Piai fishing industry. Even Bersih had called the action unethical and an attempt to fish for votes within the constituency.
“They have said before to not buy votes before the election, not use government machinery, not use government positions to buy votes. But now they’re the ones buying votes.” – Opposition leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob, as quoted by FMT
The voter turnout for this by-election was recorded at 74.43%, which was considerably high compared to previous elections. And Wee, who had previously lost against the late Farid in GE14, won by a landslide, bagging a win for BN with 25,466 votes.
January 2020: Kimanis
Why: The election of incumbent MP from Kimanis Anifah Aman was declared null and void
Just as soon as the new year came around, another by-election occurred in Kimanis, after Anifah’s election during GE14 was declared null and void because it was alleged that his victory came with over 300 votes for him improperly cast.
And just like in Sungai Kandis, Balakong, and Tanjung Piai, PAS bowed out from running, choosing instead to help Mohamad with his campaign. As such, there were only two candidates running for the Kimanis by-election.
The main arguments for this by-election mainly surrounded the issue of the Sabah Provisional Pass (PSS), which we also wrote about here. Essentially, PSS is a temporary pass for immigrants coming into Sabah, an issue that BN made as their main argument against PH while campaigning.
“If left unchecked, they (foreigners with PSS) will also control politics in Sabah. If the people of Sabah do not wish for these to happen then the voters in Kimanis by-election must reject Warisan and vote for Mohamad Alamin.” – Former PM Najib Razak, as quoted by Daily Express
And BN’s arguments might have worked, as Mohamad was successful in winning yet another by-election for BN with 12,706 votes. And not long after BN’s win, the government had also decided to scrap PSS all together.
So turns out it’s a tie…for now
Despite what the headlines have been implying, PH technically isn’t losing to BN, but the fact that it’s a tie may have shown that the rakyat might not be as hopeful in PH as they had been in the weeks leading up to GE14. Especially since it has lost three by-elections in a row.
For example, a recent study from Merdeka Center apparently found that Malaysians are rapidly losing confidence in PH, listing out reasons such as:
- Currency inflation
- Lack of job opportunities
- Fair treatment towards all races
- Political stability
And we have also kind of looked into some data to find out why PH has been losing by-elections after the hype of GE14, which you can read here.
At the time of writing, there has been no by-election announced in the near future. And we can’t really say for sure what the future will look like for PH, because, as Ellie Goulding so eloquently put it, anything could happen. For example, the abrupt resignation of the very inspirational Maszlee Malik as Education Minister and Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s hint at reshuffling the cabinet following their defeat in Tanjung Piai.
So, who knows?
But we will update this article from time to time if there are any by-elections until GE15. And only by then will we see if PH really does need the…