Doing well despite unusual moves in Kajang
By all accounts, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail did well to keep the Kajang state seat for the party with a comfortable majority of 5,379 votes yesterday.
The Selangor ruling party wanted more than a 6,000-vote majority but a lower turnout of just 72.09% over the 88.4% that cast their ballots in the last general election 10 months ago put paid to that dream.
She did well although it was an unusual campaign in Kajang where her party's Lee Chin Cheh had quit for opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to contest the seat and join the state government.
And while the Kajang by-election would not have changed the state government, Barisan Nasional (BN) threw money into the campaign by promising funds to upgrade the district hospital and other pledges to fight off PKR's hold on the seat famed for its satay or skewered
In effect, Dr Wan Azizah was fighting both BN and factions in her party that would have been happy to see the “Kajang move” buried.
The party president was, after all, the last-minute candidate as her husband Anwar was rendered ineligible because of a sodomy conviction.
But she won. And managed to raise the party's majority by 2% and even increase support from the Malay electorate.
In other words, if the BN government in Putrajaya thought that the by-election was a barometer of better times for the Najib government, they should think again.
Since the May 5 polls, support among Malays for Umno has dropped by more than 10%. And the Kajang vote supports that trend seen in surveys done by several pollsters.
The reason is simple: the government’s abysmal handling of the economy after election 2013. The subsidy cuts, price hikes, weaker ringgit and stagnant pay packet.
This affects almost all strata of society, especially the bottom 40% and the middle class. Both these sections stay in Kajang, 10km from the gleaming Putrajaya administrative capital and 30km from capital city Kuala Lumpur.
Election promises are one thing and reality is another. The economy has been uppermost in people's minds after the May 5 general election and many are feeling the pinch.
So, they vote with their wallet.
In their case, for a party which runs the state government that has saved up RM3 billion in cash reserves since it took power in 2008. Not for a coalition that has racked up a considerable federal deficit.
Despite Dr Wan Azizah's victory, BN can only claim that its share of the Chinese vote rose from 18% in election 2013 to 25% in the Kajang by-election.
Is that an increase in absolute numbers or just percentage points due to a lower voter turnout?
BN must drill down its numbers. Kajang once again proves that people are voting for policies, not just personalities and parochial or personal interests.
Dr Wan Azizah triumphed against all that yesterday – in and outside her party. – March 24, 2014.