Sungai Kandis By-Election
The first by election after the major landslide since the 14th General Election (GE14) happened and it was everything that was to be expected, namely the win by Pakatan Harapan (PH) and the low voter turnout of 49.8 percent.
Almost like a buzzing fly that came in through the window and flew out the backdoor in one straight line, as people were still reeling from the overdose of GE14.
PKR candidate Zawawi Ahmad Mughni of Pakatan Harapan (PH) took the seat from UMNO's Lokman Adam of Barisan Nasional (BN) with a majority of 5,842 votes while independent candidate K. Murthy was left losing his deposit with a sprinkle of 97 sympathy votes.
Zawawi raked in 15,427 votes and Lokman garnered 9,585 votes.
(Sungai Kandis has 50,800 voters, with a 72 percent majority of Malays, 16 percent Indian and 12 percent Chinese.)
PKR candidate Zawawi Ahmad Mughni (left) of Pakatan Harapan being held up by supporters after winning the Sg Kandis by-election.
The Sungai Kandis state seat fell vacant after the death of PKR's Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei due to lymphoma cancer.
The by-election was supposed to have been a test for the integrity of the Election Commission under the new government. In the past GEs, EC was accused for vote-rigging and gerrymandering.
BN's campaign theme which centred around the non-performance of PH government not pandering to the Malays' needs in its first 100 days in administration, and that the new government was not Muslim-friendly, fell on deaf ears
This time, EC made sure everything was accounted for from A to Z. Thus, no complaints were heard from any sides with regard to the management of the by-election itself, except for one durian fest organised by a Selangor government-linked cooperative during the campaign period. It was later cancelled after election watchdog Bersih threw a fit.
From the very start, being a Malay majority state seat, PAS and UMNO started squabbling under the covers as to who should be standing against PH, only to give conflicting statements as to who and what the voters should support.
UMNO members on the ground say that the main sign that it was going to be a walkover by Zawawi was when BN announced that the candidate was Lokman.
Lokman was an UMNO man turned reformist when former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was sacked by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1998. He was then detained under the now-defunct Internal Security Act, joined Keadilan but returned to UMNO to be part of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's team when his political ambitions in PKR failed to materialise.
He is also known for his very vocal ultra-Malay stand. He was, however, seen in a Hindu temple during campaigning period, with his hands clasped in a "vanakam" style, draped in an orange shawl usually reserved for important people - that one picture may have taken away some of his Malay votes.
PKR candidate Zawawi, on the other hand, was a perfect choice in an area where Malays were middle and lower class and largely religious in a semi-urban setting.
Although he was not a local boy, he was educating local kids and is held in high regard as the principal of his Maahad Tahfiz Al Fateh. He also headed the PKR operations room in the last GE. His loyalty to the party is well known as he has been a reformist since 1998, very much the same time as Lokman. Only that he has never made a u-turn and this upped his stead.
Due to this, BN's campaign theme which centred around the non-performance of PH government not pandering to the Malays' needs in its first 100 days in administration, and that the new government was not Muslim-friendly, fell on deaf ears.
PAS, who initially told the voters that they should support the UMNO candidate, also shied away after a while when they realised that Zawawi was more of their type of candidate than Lokman.
To the end of the campaign, PAS merely told the voters, vote BN because there needs to be more opposition to PH.
From the results, it is obvious that the people are tired of elections and are not interested in the BN-rhetoric. The grassroot sentiment seem to be, let's just keep to PH and let the new government do its work.
Two more by-elections are pending in Balakong and Seri Setia and it remains to be seen if sentiments will change among voters.