In both the by-elections, BN failed to win both seats. In the case of Bukit Gantang, PAS candidate won with an increased majority of 1845 votes as compared with the 308 General Election. In Bukit Selambau seat, the PKR candidate won the election also with the increased majority of 41 votes.
In both seats, the support of non-Malays for BN has gone down. In Bukit Selambau state seat, the Indian votes may have gone up slightly for the MIC candidate. I do not have the detailed analysis of all the voting trends in the saluran but it is obvious that in Bukit Gantang, where the Chinese voters were concentrated in Simpang and also in Kuala Sepetang, longstanding local issues that were neglected by BN state assemblyman (Gerakan) and MP was a sore point among the Chinese voters.
Two days of walking from house to house in Simpang and Kuala Sepetang, it became obvious that the Chinese voters are disillusioned with promises made by BN ‘s YBs, that remains unfulfilled. In Kg. Baru Kuala Sepetang, the main issue is that they have been squatting on the land without proper land title. Seeing how the houses are constructed, I can understand the technical and the legal difficulty in approving their land title. They were constructed hazardly without the approval of relevant authorities. The only way to regain their support and trust is to grant them the land title without taking into consideration that the building may not fulfill all the building bylaws. Otherwise, come General Election, the voters will still not vote for BN.
BN including MCA needs to relook at its campaign strategy. The young voters seem to avoid BN. Most of the BN election workers including MCA are middle-aged 40 and above with a sprinkling of Youth and Puteri. Most of the election workers in PR are of the younger generation. What is glaring is that I do not see a lot of BN Pemuda working on the ground, other than big groups of UMNO motorcyclists. Often, these group of motorcyclists create noise and traffic obstruction and they have no role to play to convince voters to vote for BN.
In ceramah, most BN leaders talk about development and often, national development, which a lot of voters fail to connect. The opposition ceramah obviously attract more crowd, hammer on BN, especially UMNO for corruption and abuse of power and system of patronage that is practiced at the local level.
Portraying Nizar as pro-Chinese and also as alleged treason to Malay Sultan seems to have very little impact on Malay voters. However, it only serves to drive away the non-Malay voters. At the local level, UMNO leaders are still playing the racial cards while the more educated Malay voters feel that there are more self-serving leaders rather than for their race.
As usual, grants were given to Chinese schools and there was promise of land swapping for squatters on KTM land. It is the lack of trust and confidence by the voters that these last minute gestures don’t seem to work. BN need to seriously look into its campaign strategy. Ceramah speaker should be multiracial rather than UMNO ceramah by Malay speakers, MCA by Chinese leaders with a sprinkling of UMNO leaders. I observe that in all PR ceramah, the speakers come from all races, hence attracting a multiracial crowd. The MCA Wanita needs to work harder to attract younger members who are more committed, more aggressive, more articulate and vocal. The same applied to the Youth in MCA. Somehow, in both the by-elections, I do not see a lot of Youth leaders, both at the branch and division been actively involved at the local level.
Mahathir rejoining UMNO and making a last minute appearance in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau do not have any significant impact on voter’s support on BN.
Nizar obviously won a lot of sympathy after being ousted as Perak MB. He was also backed by PAS’ formidable organization and election machineries. DAP strategy to tell Chinese voter that they have lost a state government which is Chinese dominated to a Malay dominated government has obviously found favours among Chinese voters. PAS Non-Muslim Chinese Supporter Club seems to work tirelessly to convince Chinese that PAS will be a better alternative then UMNO.
After the 308 election, BN has lost 3 Parliamentary by-election-Permatang Pauh, Kuala Terengganu and now Bukit Gantang. This cannot be taken lightly. It is a tell tale sign for BN that it is not business as usual. BN under Najib has to walk the talk. No beautiful slogans and empty promises. Spend more time to interact with the rakyat rather than attending many official functions where only the selected few are invited and hardly any interaction between the leaders and the rakyat. BN has to undergo big change and not small change and small steps. There is a need to review the many weaknesses within the BN machineries. The time has come to overhaul the whole machinery. For MCA, it is not just Chinese schools and Chinese new villages and Chinese temples. The Chinese wants us to do more. Until then, Chinese support for BN seems to be elusive.