Myths about the forthcoming Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar parliamentary by-elections

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said that he would reshuffle his Cabinet.

Instead of reshuffling his jumbo-sized Cabinet of 36 Ministers, he should do some pruning and remove his Cabinet of deadwood and half-past six Ministers, starting with Najib himself relinquishing the Finance Minister’s portfolio and more than halving the number of Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department who now comprise some 30 per cent of the Cabinet.

How many of the 36 Ministers were in Parliament yesterday to pay last respects to two BN/UMNO Members of Parliament, Sungai Besar MP Datuk Noriah Kasnon who was Deputy Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities and Kuala Kangsar MP Datuk Wan Mohammad Khair-jl Anuar Wan Ahmad, who was also the Malaysian Palm Oil Board Chairman, in the minute of silence observed at the beginning of Parliament?

The first row of the first block in Parliament headed by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi, the Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and the Health Minister Datuk S. Subramaniam was totally empty while the first block was virtually empty!

Why were some 90 per cent of the jumbo-sized Cabinet absent in Parliament yesterday to pay the one-minute last respect to Noriah and Wan Mohammad Khairil?

There have been some myths about the impending Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar parliamentary by-elections, with nomination fixed for June 5 and polling on June 18.

Firstly, there is the myth that PAS can win both by-elections in a one-to-one fight with UMNO.

This is not borne out by election statistics. The PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang knew this and this was why he said that whatever the outcome, PAS will not lose anything by contesting in the two by-elections.

It is true that the PAS candidates lost by a wafer-thin majority of 399 votes in Sungai Besar and a slim majority of 1,082 votes in Kuala Kangsar.

Sungai Besar, which was won by BN with 49.6% of the total votes cast, is among the 16 most marginal seats won by the Barisan Nasional in the 13th GE with less than 50% of the votes cast, while Kuala Kangsar won with 50.4% of the votes cast is among the 30 BN marginal seats won with less than 51% of the votes cast.

However the votes won by the PAS candidates in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar in the 13th General Elections on May 5, 2013 were the highest ever achieved by PAS candidates, because they were standing as Pakatan Rakyat and not just PAS candidates.

In the forthcoming by-elections for both Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar, in a one-to-one contest with UMNO, the PAS candidates in both constituencies cannot win higher votes but only lower votes as not only non-Malay voters but a sizable number of Malay voters will not vote for PAS because PAS had caused the disintegration of Pakatan Rakyat.

Although the PAS candidate in Sungai Besar secured 18,296 votes (or 48.6% of the votes cast) as against 18,695 votes for the UMNO candidate in 2013 GE and 11,060 votes against 16,069 votes for the UMNO candidate in 2008 GE (PAS securing 39.6% of votes cast), it was the 2004 GE results which are the more correct reflection of PAS strength in Sungai Besar when it secured 7,988 votes against UMNO’s 15,337 - losing by a huge majority of 7,349 votes or PAS securing 33.1% per cent of the votes cast.

The same story applies to the Kuala Kangsar seat. The PAS candidate came very close to victory in the 2013 GE because he was standing as a Pakatan Rakyat candidate, losing by 1.082 votes in securing 13,136 votes against UMNO’s 14,218 votes (with PAS securing 46.6% of the votes cast in a three-cornered contest).

In the 2008 GE, the PAS candidate lost by 1,458 votes when he secured 9,277 votes (or 44.7% of votes cast) against the UMNO candidate’s 10,735 votes; but it was the 2004 GE which reflected the true position of PAS influence in the constituency when it lost by 5,557 votes by securing 5,748 votes as against the UMNO candidate who won 11,305 votes (or PAS securing 32,9% of the total votes cast).

Secondly, there is the myth that a PAS candidate in a one-to-one contest with UMNO in both constituencies is a rare opportunity to send a message of change to Barisan Nasional.

This seems to be quite odd when the two top leaders of PAS are the only opposition leaders in the country who have defended the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak on his twin global financial scandals which had haunted and hounded the Prime Minister for over a year.

Will Hadi and the PAS Mursyidul Am, Harun Din, retract their statements?

In fact, PAS seems to be developing a new personality as a UMNO and Najib-friendly party.

Will the two top PAS leaders endorse and support the “Save Malaysia” Declaration to save Malaysia from the corruption, abuses of power, repression and injustices of the Najib premiership – the latest example being the undemocratic and arbitrary barring of the Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah from leaving the country to travel to South Korea to be honoured internationally with the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Award.

The third myth is that the coming twin by-elections for Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar could act as an indicator for the possible fate of 81 marginal constituencies out of 222 seats amid the ongoing 1MDB saga and RM4.2 billion political donation scandal in the next general election.

This is however subject to the proviso that Najib’s twin mega scandals will be the main issues in the two by-elections.

The fourth myth is that UMNO will definitely win in a three-cornered contest. What could be “game changer” to debunk this myth in the two by-elections?

These are among the considerations the Pakatan Harapan President Council will have to deliberate on the two parliamentary by-elections next month.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah