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My take on the Teluk Intan By-Election Results

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming on the 1st of June, 2014 in Teluk Intan

My take on the Teluk Intan By-Election Results

As expected, the Teluk Intan by-elections was a very closely fought affair. In the end, the turnout of 67% was not sufficient for the DAP to maintain this seat, losing by a razor thin majority of 238 votes. In fact, before the results of the last polling station was returned to the DAP operations center, our candidate, Dyana Sofya, was still ahead by 25 votes. Unfortunately, the last polling station, Sungai Bugis, also happened to be an UMNO stronghold which we lost by a majority of 263 votes.

It was always going to be a bold and risky strategy on the part of the DAP to field Dyana as a young, female Malay candidate. I had highlighted these risks earlier when I wrote about why Dyana should be considered as the underdog in this contest.[1] In this earlier statement, I outlined two possible scenarios – one more positive, one more scenario – under which DAP would win or lose this seat. Unfortunately, the more negative scenario came to pass.

The Chinese support for DAP decreased by 15% from 85% in GE2013 to 70% in this by-election which was the most pessimistic projection. This was somewhat surprising given the positive response that the campaign was receiving from the Chinese voters including the mammoth ceramah on the final day of the campaign.

The Indian support for DAP decreased by 10% from 62% in GE2013 to 52% in this by-election, again the most pessimistic projection.

If there was a silver lining to this campaign, it would be the slight increase in Malay support of 3% from 25% in GE2013 to 28% in this by-election. In 6 Malay majority polling stations, the DAP experienced small increases in the overall support ranging from 0.7% to 3.4%, an encouraging sign given that we were not expecting the Malay support to increase.

In analysing and interpreting these by-election results, care needs to be taken to separate the short term and more local factors at play in this by-election versus the more national and longer term issues.

At the local level, the race and place of birth of both candidates, the promise of a Ministerial position for the BN candidate if elected, the fact that this by-election will not have any impact on the overall balance of politics at the national level, the usual pouring in of goodies by the BN and promises for more development that happens during a by-election and the relative lack of interest in this contest that led to a lower turnout rate were all contributory factors to the DAP’s defeat. These factors may not have as big of an impact at the national level in the context of a general election.

At the national level, the possible impact of the hudud issue especially among the Chinese community, the lack of resonance of the Hindraf and Hindraf-related issues such as the resignation of Waythamoorthy as Deputy Minister and the appeal of Pakatan Rakyat in other similar constituencies – ethnically mixed, semi-urban with many developmental needs and relatively poor internet access – are all issues which need to be pondered over by the PR national leadership.

Some specific questions which need to be raised include the following:

Firstly, will turnout in the next general election be as high as GE2013 especially if voters are turned off by the problems affecting Pakatan Rakyat such as the disagreement over hudud, problems in party elections, leadership issues within Pakatan in the state of Selangor, the Allah and the Malay bible issue, just to name a few? There is no guarantee that these problems will not escalate leading up to the next general election and if so, many voters may choose not to come back to vote. The lower turnout which partly caused DAP to lose Teluk Intan may be replicated in many other such seats.

Secondly, will Pakatan Rakyat be able to develop a convincing message to other constituencies like Teluk Intan which are semi-urban and are more likely to be convinced by promises of development rather than messages to combat corruption and to get rid of race based politics in this country? These are seats where Pakatan are either vulnerable incumbents e.g. Beruas, Bakri, Raub, Bukit Gantang, Kluang, Kuala Kedah, just to name a few or where BN are vulnerable incumbents e.g. Bentong, Cameron Highlands, Labis, Bagan Serai, just to name a few. A different and complementary strategy to what Pakatan has been doing at the national level may be needed in order for PR to defend and win these kinds of seats.

Thirdly, will Pakatan be able to capitalize on its image as a coalition that is more appealing and attractive to the younger generation and therefore younger voters? There is no question that PR has more appealing and credible younger parliamentarians compared to the BN. But the youth vote is fickle and can easily swing to the BN. The challenge for Pakatan is to provide the necessary platform for young leaders, especially young Malay leaders, to present creative ideas and credible policies to convince the younger voters that they are better placed than BN to lead the country into the future.

We saw a glimpse of this in Dyana’s campaign in Teluk Intan. The amount of excitement and interest which she generated at the national level especially among young Malays was, dare I say, unprecedented. Because of Dyana’s candidacy, UiTM students were talking about the DAP and not necessarily in a negative manner! A Malaysian student in Oxford wrote about why younger Malays are abandoning UMNO, using Dyana as an example.[2] Marina Mahathir praised Dyana’s for being able to think and write for herself.[3] At the local level, Dyana received a tremendous reception from among kids and also young people where-ever she went. While most of them were not voters, they will be voters in the near future and young leaders such as Dyana are much better positioned to win them over.

The battle for Teluk Intan may have been lost by the DAP but by attempting this move to break down racial and gender barriers, new ground has been paved. I am confident that after this by-election, more young Malays would look at DAP as a possible avenue for political activism. I am confident that more young people would support Pakatan’s cause to move away from race-based politics. Pakatan’s challenge is to lead the way forward and not look back.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

[1] http://ongkianming.com/2014/05/27/press-statement-why-dyana-sofya-is-the-underdog-in-teluk-intan/

[2] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/yasmin-disney/article/dyana-and-umno-why-are-young-malays-abandoning-the-party

[3] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/she-can-think-she-can-write-she-can-articulate-marina-mahathir-says-of-smar

BN and their supporters should feel ashamed for hacking the phone intended to receive calls from outstation Teluk Intan voters wanting a seat on buses going back to Teluk Intan from the Klang Valley

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 29th of May, 2014 in Teluk Intan

BN and their supporters should feel ashamed for hacking the phone intended to receive calls from outstation Teluk Intan voters wanting a seat on buses going back to Teluk Intan from the Klang Valley

Earlier this week, the DAP announced that we would be providing a bus service at cost for Teluk Intan voters in the Klang Valley to return to Teluk Intan to vote in the upcoming by-election on the 31st of May, 2014. We asked voters requiring this bus service to call a number that would be manned by a DAP volunteer.

Unfortunately, irresponsible people, most likely to be BN supporters or possibly even BN members, hacked this phone number and proceeded to spam this phone number with crank calls and SMSes. This action prevented genuine callers who wanted to book a seat on our bus from calling this number.

In addition, these irresponsible people also sent out an SMS to all the phone numbers who had called or SMSed the DAP phone with the following message in Chinese:

(Translation) “Tomorrow is polling day. With all sincerity, I ask my respected voters to vote for me, Mah Siew Keong (BN). I will promise to make a better future for Teluk Intan.”

This action was clearly undertaken in order to sabotage DAP’s effort to encourage a higher turnout for the Teluk Intan by-election. The BN knows that if the turnout rate is higher i.e. more than 70%, the lower the chances for its candidate to win this seat.

The BN and its supporters should feel ashamed of themselves for sabotaging the DAP’s efforts to increase voter turnout for this upcoming by-election.

I call upon the outstation voters of Teluk Intan to send a resounding message to these saboteurs that these tricks will not work and for these voters to come back in droves so that the turnout rate exceeds 70% by a comfortable margin.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

Why Dyana Sofya is the underdog in Teluk Intan

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 27th of May, 2014

Why Dyana Sofya is the underdog in Teluk Intan

Why would the DAP candidate, Dyana Sofya, be considered the underdog in a seat won by the DAP with more than 7000 votes in the 13th general election? Is it merely a ploy to gain more sympathy votes for DAP on the 31st of May?

There is no doubt in my mind that there is a very real possibility that Dyana and the DAP would lose this by-election. While her candidacy has been a breath of fresh air and has been applauded by various quarters at the national level, there are a few important factors which are at work against Dyana among the people who matter most in this by-election, namely the Teluk Intan voters themselves.

A whispering campaign has already started among certain quarters to appeal for Chinese voters to vote for a Chinese representative in Teluk Intan. This was always a challenge which was recognized by the DAP from day one – that fielding a Malay candidate in a non-Malay majority seat would cost the party some votes, especially among the Chinese voters.

At the same time, the fact that Dyana does not hail Teluk Intan would be used against her especially since the BN candidate, Dato Mah Siew Keong, is a local boy with an influential and well-known family backing him. We fear that the fact that Dyana relocated to Gelang Patah, Johor as part of her responsibility as Lim Kit Siang’s political secretary and that she would do the same if elected as the MP for Teluk Intan would be drowned out by this ‘local’ versus ‘outsider’ campaign message. Of course, lost in this message is the fact that NOT being local did not prevent two Perak born former MCA presidents – Dr. Ling Liong Sik and Ong Ka Ting – from serving as MPs in Johor for most of their political lives.

It is noteworthy that Mah Siew Keong received 4606 more votes at the parliamentary level compared to his BN colleagues in the state seats of Pasir Bedamar and Changkat Jong even though he went up against local DAP three term Pasir Bedamar ADUN – the late Seah Leong Peng. Mah’s split voting advantage in GE2013 is an indication of the strength of the Mah family ‘brand’ in Teluk Intan where such ties matter especially among older voters.

Dyana’s age, her gender and her appearance have also been heavily criticized and attacked especially by UMNO politicians and in the mainstream media.

These attacks will be the most effective among older Chinese voters whose support for Pakatan is noticeably lower than among younger voters. For example, in the Jalan Market Barat polling station, which is 92% Chinese, 72.5% of older voters in the first polling stream (or saluran) vote for DAP in GE13 compared to 85.1% among the youngest voters in the 4th (and final) polling stream who voted for DAP.

Older Chinese voters also outnumber younger Chinese voters in Teluk Intan. 40% of Chinese voters in Teluk Intan are above 55 years of age compared to only 21% who are under 35. In comparison, only 28% of Malay voters are above 55 years of age compared to 34% of voters who are below 35 years of age.

Younger, more pro-Pakatan Chinese voters, are also more likely to be working or studying outside Teluk Intan and may not come back home for this by-election. Turnout in GE2013 was a remarkably high 80.6% compared to only 70.0% in GE2008. A large reason for this high turnout is the return of outstation voters who came back to vote in GE2013. The turnout for this by-election will most certainly be lower than in GE2013. It is expected that the turnout rate would be between 65% to 70%.

One also cannot underestimate the possible impact of PAS’ attempt to table a private members bill for the implementation of hudud in Kelantan especially among the Chinese voters.

These factors – lower support for a non-Chinese DAP candidate who is not seen as a local, a larger proportion of older Chinese voters, a lower turnout rate especially among outstation young voters and the possible impact of the hudud issue – means that DAP’s support among the Chinese voters – at an estimated 85% in GE2013 – would almost certain drop in the upcoming by-election. The Chinese support for DAP is expected to drop by between 5% to 15%.

Among the Indian voters, who supported PR at a 62% rate in GE2013, similar arguments – lower turnout especially among the young, the hudud issue, the Mah family factor – will also explain why Indian support for Dyana and for DAP will fall in the by-election. Factors such as the resignation of Hindraf leader Waythamoorthy as Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister department over the inability of the Prime Minister to deliver on the Hindraf Blueprint will not likely be salient. The Indian support for DAP is expected to drop by between 5% to 10%.

It was and is not anticipated that Dyana’s candidacy would increase PR’s support among Malay voters in Teluk Intan. While fielding Dyana has a candidate has galvanized many young voters including young Malays all over the country to pay attention to this by-election, the local sentiment in Teluk Intan among Malay voters will be hard to overturn within a 2 week campaign period. It will take many years to win the hearts and minds of a majority of Malay voters especially in the Malay majority Changkat Jong are. Hopefully Dyana will have a chance to undertake this challenge but for this by-election at least, it is unlikely that the Malay support for DAP will increase from the 25% we received in GE2013. It would already be an achievement if we managed to preserve the Malay support at 25% given the incessant attacks against Dyana by top UMNO leaders and the many government handouts which have been given in Teluk Intan during this campaign.

Under a relatively optimistic projection, if turnout is at 70%, Malay support is maintained at 25%, Chinese support falls by 10% to 75% and Indian support falls by 5% to 55%, DAP will maintain this seat with a majority of just over 1000. Under a more pessimistic projection, if turnout were to fall to 65%, Malay support falls by 2% to 23, Chinese support falls by 15% to 70% and Indian support falls by 10% to 50%, DAP will lose this seat by slightly more than 1000 votes.

Turnout is key. If voters feel unmotivated to turn out, as was the case for the Bukit Gelugor by-election, and turnout falls below 65%, DAP will almost certainly lose this seat. If turnout is at 70% or more, then the chances for the voters of Teluk Intan to have a young, energetic and idealistic Member of Parliament will be bright.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang