Cameron Highlands was brushed off as an unremarkable result in ‘BN heartland’, Pahang.
In Semenyih, they said the margin was narrow, and that in any event, the BN candidate was popular locally.
So too in Rantau, where ‘local boy’ and four-term assemblyman Tok Mat’s win was labelled ‘expected’.
But what will they say now in Tanjung Piai?
Just 18 months ago, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng had lost the very same seat by about 500 votes. Over the weekend, he won by more than 15,000 votes.
Dr Wee‘s win is remarkable not only due to its huge majority. It is also a strong result for Barisan Nasional in Johor, a state in which PH had seized many traditionally-BN seats in last year’s political tsunami.
Perhaps even more significantly, the outcome in Tanjung Piai undermines accusations of pro-Malay racist (or at least, racial) politics on the part of BN. Dr Wee is a member of the MCA, one of the most vilified political parties in recent years up until, well… now. An MCA candidate’s success in a constituency formed of more than 40 per cent Chinese voters, not to mention 57 per cent Malay voters, suggests that legitimacy is not won from playing the race card alone.
Instead, sincerity, integrity and genuine respect for the rakyat have brought Dr Wee a long way. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for certain members of the PH camp, with their unfulfilled promises, inaccurate remarks about palm oil prices, freebies, and a general appearance of being out of touch with the average Malaysian – a dangerous characteristic for a coalition in power to exhibit.
It goes without saying that this result in Tanjung Piai does little to change the literal status quo. When we wake up in the morning, Pakatan Harapan will still be in government with a comfortable majority, and Tun Mahathir will still be Prime Minister.
But it is becoming increasingly clear that the earlier outcomes in Cameron Highlands, Semenyih, Rantau were not flukes or limited to ‘local favourites’. Those by elections in Pahang, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan respectively, and BN’s most recent victory in Johor, spell out Malaysians’ dissatisfaction with those they voted in 1.5 years ago.
In turn, this places ever more pressure both on the PH coalition as a whole, and internally, where intensifying fracturing between parties and individuals is a badly kept secret. While the weekend’s result in Tanjung Piai is unlikely to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, it is no doubt the strongest indicator yet of changing perceptions in respect of the balance of political power in the country.
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.