By Syed Jaymal Zahiid
ANALYSIS GUA MUSANG: Many observers and analysts shared a common sentiment that the Chinese votes in the country were securely in the bag of the opposition. In the case of Galas, they were wrong. It was the Chinese votes that gave the constituency away to the Barisan Nasional (BN).
A quick reading of the polling data of the Galas by-election, the 12th since the 2008 general election, showed a startling and perhaps worrying trend for the opposition.
The data revealed that all the predominantly Chinese enclaves in Galas backed BN. The most damning data came from Kampung Baru Gua Musang polling streams.
In the 2008 general election, the Islamist party won Galas by a majority of only 646 votes. The turnout then was slightly lower than Thursday's by-election, which saw 81% of the constituents in Galas cast their ballots.
BN's Abdul Aziz Yusoff defeated PAS' Dr Zulkefli Mohamed with a majority of 1,190 votes.
Chinese support for PAS in the 2008 polls was at 55%. PAS did not do well in three Chinese enclaves but dominated all four polling streams in Kampung Baru.
But on Thursday, the voters of Kampung Baru Gua Musang turned their backs on PAS.
PAS was betting on a slight swing in Chinese votes of at least 3% to its side. This would have helped it counter the anticipated decrease in Orang Asli votes from its original 35%.
The Islamist party was also hoping to bag the young Malay voters, who formed a sizeable chunk in the Galas electorate. This did not happen. To make it worst, PAS had nothing to fall back on now that their Chinese votebank had been robbed.
1Malaysia magic won the Chinese?
What happened? MCA deputy president Liow Tiong Lai would like to believe that the Chinese voters are warming up to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's 1Malaysia concept. But not Chua Soi Lek !
"They are responding to his 1Malaysia call and they believe that the prime minister wholeheartedly means it. This means we can strengthen unity as we have worked hard to achieve it," he told FMT when reacting to the news of the BN victory.
Liow gave a standard reply. He has every right to believe in it. But the fact of the matter is, the shift in Chinese feelings against PAS, particularly in Kampung Baru Gua Musang, is something new and hard to explain.
The campaigning methods of the MCA were not exactly brilliant. They were even recycled. Was this responsible in the decline of Chinese support for PAS? Hardly so.
And did PAS do anything different from before? Not really. Issues like land which have been close to the hearts of the Chinese settlers here have been more or less resolved. Their way of life has not been threatened by the brand of Islam espoused by a party its rivals love to portray as "Taliban-like".
Ku Li may have played a role
Some analysts say it could be due to the personality of the BN Galas election director Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the British-educated gentleman statesman. He, and not Umno, is hugely popular in Galas. This could have swayed the Chinese voters to abandon PAS.
But until the specific polling data is revealed, there can be no real answer. Nevertheless, the defeat in Galas has got the opposition in jitters over possible shift of loyalty among the Chinese voters.
The opposition camp knows that if this trend is replicated at the national level, Pakatan Rakyat, which has so far rode on an anti-establishment wave among the Chinese voters, may find it difficult to defend seats should snap polls be called.
And Najib may be convinced that the day of reckoning has come. Snap polls is now likely. And if it happens in this inauspicious climate, we may see the Chinese mandate given to the opposition expire.
It all may have started from a sleepy nobody-knows-Chinese town of Kampung Baru Gua Musang.