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BN’s absence, strong campaign machinery key to Anwar’s thumping victory

PORT DICKSON (Malaysia) — The absence of opposition Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in the Port Dickson by-election, coupled with the Pakatan Harapan's (PH) overwhelming campaign machinery were among the key factors behind Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's landslide victory on Saturday (Oct 13), say analysts.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is expected to be sworn in as a member of parliament on Monday (Oct 15).

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is expected to be sworn in as a member of parliament on Monday (Oct 15).

PORT DICKSON (Malaysia) — The absence of opposition Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in the Port Dickson by-election, coupled with the Pakatan Harapan's (PH) overwhelming campaign machinery were among the key factors behind Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's landslide victory on Saturday (Oct 13), say analysts.

"As BN did not compete in this election by fielding an Umno (United Malays National Organisation) candidate as it would normally do, their supporters naturally did not come out and vote,” said Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, a fellow at the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute.

“Had they come out, Anwar's margin of victory would have decreased although he would still have won."

BN had opted out of the contest, stating that the by-election was called merely to fulfill Mr Anwar’s political aspirations.

Mr Anwar romped home with a massive 31,016 votes or 71.3 per cent of the vote share. He obtained a majority of 23,560 votes over his nearest challenger, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia’s (PAS) Mohd Nazari Mokhtar, who only got 7,456 votes.

Voter turnout was 58.3 per cent, just under the 60 per cent target set by the ruling coalition.

The majority secured by Mr Anwar was the biggest in the history of the constituency.

Is the election outcome a shot in the arm for the fledgling PH coalition, which has struggled to deliver some of the promises it made before coming to power in May?

Dr Mustafa said it is too early to tell. “Malaysia is still in a state of flux after a historic change in government. It may take us at least a year before we can really take stock of PH's performance," he said.

The third challenger in the Port Dickson contest, former Umno senior leader and ex-Negeri Sembilan chief minister Mohd Isa Samad - who quit his party to contest as an independent - only managed to get 4,230 votes. This was despite him being the only candidate who hailed from the seaside town.

Four other Independent candidates lost their deposits.

Mr Ibrahim Suffian, the head of independent pollster Merdeka Centre said the result was expected because Mr Anwar’s opponents were weak.

Mr Isa, in particular, failed to find traction in the state which he governed for 22 years due to a lack of party backing and machinery, he said.

Mr Rashaad Ali, a research analyst at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ (RSIS) Malaysia Programme noted that Mr Isa’s credibility has also taken a huge hit, following investigations into alleged dubious land deals and hotel purchases while he headed the Federal Land Development Authority between 2011 and last year.

Port Dickson has some 75,000 voters of which 43 per cent are Malays, 33 per cent Chinese and 22 per cent Indians.

PAS started the race hamstrung. It has traditionally struggled in mixed seats such as Port Dickson, which has been held by Mr Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) since the 2008 General Election.

In contrast, PKR has traditionally fared well in mixed constituencies due to its multiracial make-up.

Voters also opted for Mr Anwar due to the current government's clear line of succession plan. Mr Anwar is due to take over the premiership from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in two years.

"Voters know he is in line to be the next Prime Minister, so people made the pragmatic choice because he can bring development to the area," said Mr Ibrahim.

Mr Anwar is expected to be sworn in as a member of parliament on Monday.

On his campaign trail, he had repeatedly pledged to revive tourism in the seaside town and improve the sluggish Internet connection.

CAMPAIGN MACHINERY

Besides the lack of credible challengers, analysts say the strong PH machinery was indispensable to the outcome.

"PH's machinery has been on the ground since nominations on September 29. They framed the campaign around Anwar and it was further boosted when Dr Mahathir came to stump in the by-election," said Universiti Malaya's Prof Awang Azman Pawi.

"Coupled with Anwar's charisma and popularity, I am not surprised that voters opted for him."

Senator Yusmaidi Yusoff, who has been working for Mr Anwar for years and helped out with the campaigning during the by-election, claimed the party had all along targeted a voters' turnout of 60 per cent and a majority of 30,000.

"We planned towards it (the target) but we also acknowledged challenges to achieve it considering the results in the previous by-elections," he told TODAY in reference to the last three by-elections since May 9 national polls which saw turnouts of below 50 per cent.

"It was Anwar's hard work and the party machinery that contributed to the unexpected results."

Now that the dust has settled, local leaders are gearing to work with Mr Anwar.

"I can't wait to work with him... I hope he can bring more development to Port Dickson," said Lukut assemblyman Choo Ken Hwa. Lukut is one of the seats in Port Dickson.

Meanwhile, voters hope that that Mr Anwar will fulfil his promises.

Hotel receptionist Anna Ahmad, 28, hopes that he will make the town more vibrant and create more jobs for youths.

"Many of my relatives and friends have moved to Kuala Lumpur or Johor for work due to better opportunities. I hope he can help stem this... the town needs more tourists especially during weekdays," she said.

Publicist Zeeneeshri Ramadass, 35, who came back from Kuala Lumpur to vote, added: "Many people who voted for him voted because of PH. Now that he has won, I hope he will work on developing Port Dickson's tourism industry and not channel all his energy solely to become the next premier."

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