Malaysian ruling party sees less votes in by-election

Analysts say reduced majority in stronghold may signal larger trend for party and its coalition in 2018 general election.

Malaysian ruling party sees less votes in by-election

World Bulletin / News Desk 

Malaysia’s ruling party has won the by-election in its stronghold of Rompin constituency, but with a reduced majority that analysts said Thursday serves as a warning for its coalition before the 2018 general election.

United Malay National Organization (UMNO) candidate Hassan Ariffin secured the parliamentary seat for Rompin, left vacant after late MP Jamaluddin Jarjis died in a helicopter crash last month, by winning 61 percent of total votes Tuesday against the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party.

Ariffin gained the majority with 6,244 less votes than his predecessor, a former envoy to the United States who retained the parliamentary seat since winning an election in 1990. Jarjis had garnered 66 percent of the popular vote in the 2013 general election.

Rompin was considered a bellwether by-election for UMNO, with the constituency being a party stronghold due to its large rural population where many receive assistance from the federal government through various programs.

Ibrahim Suffian of the Merdeka Center independent surveyor firm said Thursday that despite the by-election being for a constituency boasting 50,000 voters, the result might signal a larger trend for the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition -- specifically UMNO -- in the 2018 general election.

He told Anadolu Agency that differences in the popular vote percentage are vital in determining future support for a political party, and are more significant than securing a majority -- which is dependent on voter turnout that is typically lower in by-elections.

“The fact that it is viewed as a safe seat and that it is on a weekday would lead to a lower turnout,” Suffian said in an email. “However, if you discount the young, outstation, urban-dwelling voters who did not come back to vote, you are left with the locals, who are the typical hardcore UMNO supporter.”

Suffian added that the decline in votes was due to discontent over the implementation of a goods and services tax last month, as well as the ongoing public feud between Prime Minister Najib Razak and former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Political analyst Dr. Bushan Singh also warned of the consequences of the recent dispute between the two leaders, stressing that UMNO and BN must resolve it as soon as possible to instill confidence among Malaysians.

He also told Anadolu Agency that the government should take measures to cool tension amid ongoing protests over the consumption-based tax.

"The sooner they resolve all the issues, the better for UMNO's future. If the matters go unresolved, the confidence among voters on the credibility of the party and its leaders would reduce,” Singh said.

"The decline in support can then be clearly seen in the next state elections, by-elections and the 14th general election," he warned.

Last Mod: 07 Mayıs 2015, 12:22
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