By LIM MUN FAH
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
The Kuala Besut by-election brought no surprise nor unexpected result. It was a relatively peaceful by-election.
In the by election, the BN won with a majority of 2,592 votes, 158 more than the majority of 2,434 votes in the May 5 general election. However, it does not mean that the number of voters supporting the BN has increased as in fact, BN candidate Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Rahman received 451 votes less while Pakatan Rakyat candidate Azlan Yusof received 679 votes less compared to the votes they gained in the general election.
Obviously, the numbers of votes received by the two candidates had reflected the impact of voter turnout which had decreased by 7%. However, even if the turnout was retained, it is believed that the BN would still win and the only difference would be the numbers of votes gained.
The by-election was held less than three months after the May 5 general election. As expected, it is not easy for voters to change within such a short period of time. Moreover, Kuala Besut has been a conservative rural constituency.
Although its election process and results were so bland, there were inevitably still some controversies. For instance, about 300 PAS supporters mobbed a convoy of five cars transporting Election Commission (EC) deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar and EC advisers, assuming that they were outsiders trying to bring ballot boxes into the polling station. Also, both camps mutually accused of vote buying and BN candidate Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Rahman was criticised for publicly displayed his ballot paper during polling. These incidents have cast a stain to the by-election which was expected to be a model by-election.
Similar suspicion of smuggling ballot boxes had taken place during the May 5 general election. The EC should have learned a lesson and review the causes to prevent similar incidents in future elections.
As for the vote buying accusation, it happens in almost every election. Undeniably, there are still loopholes and gray areas in our Election Act, allowing various unhealthy vote canvassing means. Such as the act of a self-proclaimed "millionaire" village chief to distirbute RM50 to RM200 of "transportation allowance" to voters and PAS' strategy to offer free petrol for motorcyclists aged 21 years old and above were "Santa Claus-style" strategies. These are signs of degenerating democracy, as well as very bad demonstrations of election practices.
Similarly, the move of BN candidate Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Rahman to publicly display his ballot paper during polling was another bad demonstration. Didn't he violate Section 5(2) and (3) of the Election Offences Act 1954?
Tengku Zaihan had obviously committed a taboo and it is unlikely to be convincing for the EC to say that it was his personal choice and the act did not violate the Election Offences Act.