Poor turnout dampens BN’s Batu Sapi victory
While BN has insisted that yesterday’s results were proof that the people had accepted Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s development initiatives and 1 Malaysia platform, one significant factor was ignored — the poor turnout of voters.
If anything, the meagre 61.5 per cent turnout clearly indicated that the locals here have little or no regard for politics and place it low on their list of priorities.
Those who did turn up to vote yesterday were largely the community’s elderly, namely the staunch BN supporters of the past, who knew very little of the political changes made by their brethren across the South China Sea.
Many villagers, when met during polling day yesterday, had looked aghast at the uproar the by-election had brought to their otherwise peaceful township and were plagued with questions on why the polls was any different from past elections in the area.
Even Sabah Progressive Party’s (SAPP) candidate Datuk Yong Teck Lee said the small group of supporters seen waving flags and chanting outside the polling stations was a trend alien to the local folk of Batu Sapi.
In previous elections, said the former chief minister, voters merely sailed in and out of polling stations with ease.
The failure of nearly 40 per cent of the community here to turn up to cast their vote showed that many cared very little over who represented them in Parliament.
If they were indeed politically aware and anxious to support either the BN or the opposition parties of PKR and SAPP, they would have made an effort to let their voices be heard.
But the fact that they did not, resulting in BN’s victory, does not necessarily mean that the majority of voters in Batu Sapi were supportive of Najib’s slew of development initiatives.
In all likelihood even, most of the rural folk living here do not even know what the NEM, ETP, GTP, NKRA and NKEA are, along with the other plans the prime minister may have for Malaysia.
How could they, when they lack access to simple information and even basic amenities like running water or electricity?
Another significant takeaway from yesterday’s polls was Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) success in securing second place.
Although PKR had clearly walked into the race as the underdog, with predictions pointing to its likely failure to secure the seat, in just nine-days of campaigning, the peninsular-based party had managed to push through to second place, above even locally-based SAPP.
Talks with villagers during the last few days of campaigning showed that PKR, armed with its experiences from the peninsular, had managed to make its presence felt in Batu Sapi.
Local folk whispered the tales of corruption the party had brought with them, and grew starry-eyed in the presence of political giants like Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang and even Lim Guan Eng.
With their round-the-clock efforts, PKR also managed to clinch the support of the Chinese community here, which make up about 38 per cent of the total electorate.
The party hit many stumbling blocks along the way, however, as they were up against BN’s massive election machinery and resources.
For the local folk in Batu Sapi, many of whom were struggling with monthly salaries of just RM400, simple gifts were enough to convince them that BN was the better choice.
One PKR leader told The Malaysian Insider, “They are so poor and they need these things now. They cannot see beyond tomorrow and the fact that they can get even more if they dared to make a change.”
PKR’s leaders also spoke of problems with teaching people how to vote for the opposition, after finding that some local folk were not even aware of party emblems other than the BN’s.
On the final day of campaign, the party had to mobilise a team of campaign workers to teach the people how to mark their ballot papers.
PKR elections director Fuziah Salleh said that the villagers had long been accustomed to BN’s logo and when faced with a ballot paper, their immediate reaction was to mark an “X” next to it.
Still, despite these shortcomings, PKR’s Ansari managed second place yesterday with 3,414 votes, behind BN’s Datin Linda Tsen Thau Lin’s 9,773 votes. In third place was SAPP’s Yong with 2,031 votes.
If nine days of hectic campaigning could secure PKR second place, who is to say what will happen in Batu Sapi come the next general election, still at least months away?