Politicians from both sides of the divide have different takes on the Chinese support in the Sungai Limau by-election.
PAS retained the seat with its candidate, Mohd Azam Abdul Samat, polling 12,069 votes against BN’s Dr Ahmad Sohaimi Lazim who received 10,985.
The victory was, however, a bitter one because Mohd Azam won it with a reduced majority of 1,084 votes, down from 2,774 in May 5 general election. PAS lost in some polling stations where Chinese make up 10% – 26% of voters.
There are 27,787 voters in Sungai Limau, of which 7% are Chinese.
Does an increase in BN votes in these polling stations mean a growing Chinese support for the ruling coalition?
Gerakan deputy president and Kedah chief Cheah Soon Hai said BN had boosted its Chinese support to 60% -70%, up from 10%-15% in the last general election.
He said this was evident as the increase in BN votes came from polling stations where Chinese form the significant number of voters such as Sungai Limau, Kabo Sepuluh and Simpang Tiga.
He said for example BN lost the Sungai Limau station by 12 votes in the last general election, but won by 265 votes on Monday.
“If you say the increase was due to Malay votes, then it should be in the areas with overwhelming Malay voters.
“There is a return of Chinese votes and you cannot deny the fact,” he said, expressing his disappointment that certain Umno leaders still doubted the figures.
Yesterday, Jerai MCA division chief Huang Keng Chow said BN bagged 892 out of the 1,185 Chinese votes cast on Monday.
Some 480 Chinese voted for BN in Sungai Limau Dalam, 204 in Sungai Limau Luar and 208 in Batu 17.
Cheah said among the reasons for the community’s swing were the hope for development, the subsiding regime change mood and various handouts given during the campaign.
DAP: Hard to judge
DAP strategist and Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming however said it was hard to judge whether the Chinese votes had indeed gone back to BN because they only make up 7% of the voters.
“There is no polling station where the majority are Chinese, the highest is Simpang Tiga with 26%,” he said.
Four other polling stations – Sungai Limau, Kabu Sepuluh, Batu Enam Belas and Kampung Titi Batu, only have between 10% and 19% Chinese voters.
“You cannot say the Chinese voters have gone back to BN especially when the (Chinese) turnout is only about 50%,” said Ong.
He said many Chinese did not turn up to vote because the by-election had no significance on the overall state or national political situation.
He added that Sungai Limau could not be a yardstick to analyse the national Chinese sentiment because the community was small in the constituency.
“It is hard to conclude the result,” he added.
Ahmad Sohaimi was also not too convinced that the Chinese in Sungai Limau backed him as he reportedly said he “hardly received 600 votes” from them.
“I could have won if the Chinese voters chose me but I hardly got 600 votes. It wasn’t only because they voted PAS but many of them failed to vote. I wonder why?” he was reported of saying.
As the ballot is secret and the small percentage of Chinese votes remain hard to trace, the result is up for individual interpretations.
Umno biggest loser then?
DAP’s veteran leader Lim Kit Siang meanwhile asked if the figures being quoted by MCA leaders on the Chinese support were accurate at all.
He said that MCA leaders, including the Kedah state exco-designate Leong Yong Kong had been reported in the Chinese media as saying that BN had secured 75.27% of the Chinese votes – 892 out of 1,185 Chinese votes cast – and that BN did not win a single extra Malay vote in the by-election.
“If MCA leaders are to be believed, that BN had an addition of over 732 Chinese votes in the by-election as compared to the 13GE, this could only mean that the BN had lost at least 267 Malay votes, as BN vote in the by-election would have fallen from 10,530 to 10,253 without the increase of at least 732 Chinese votes.
“So, is Umno the greatest loser and MCA the greatest winner in the Sungai Limau by-election?” asked Lim in a statement.
He said he left it to Umno and BN leaders to decide whether to accept the MCA’s analysis of the voting trends in the Sungai Limau by-election as there could be different interpretations in the absence of specific information about the voting.
He also said that PAS and Pakatan Rakyat had emerged with a significant victory considering the money politics and the “mountain of lies and falsehoods mobilised during the by-election to hold both the Malay and Chinese voters to ransom”.
He added PAS and Pakatan Rakyat mush cherish the victory in the Sungai Limau by-election and learn from the electoral weaknesses highlighted by the by-election.