May 7, 2015
Phnom Penh by The Mekong
Looking Back @ Rompin By-Elections: Disadvantage Najib
by Nigel Aw@www.malaysiakini.com
ANALYSIS: The Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Hudud may have been the dominating issues during the Rompin by-election campaign but a crucial factor that appeared to have been overlooked was a brewing revolt by FELDA settlers.
While Barisan Nasional (BN) ‘s share of votes was reduced in most Malay majority areas, likely due to resentment against the GST, the swing against the ruling coalition was significantly higher in FELDA settlements. For example, according to polling district data, areas such as Muadzam Shah (96 percent Malay), Sungai Puteri (85 percent Malay), Kota Bahagia (86 percent Malay) and Sarang Tiong (90 percent Malay) saw an average swing of between three to six percent against BN. However, the data showed that the figure almost doubles in Felda polling districts with several seeing swings of almost 10 percent against BN.
Among them include FELDA Keratong 3 (10.1 percent), FELDA Keratong 4 (9 percent), FELDA Keratong 6 (9.1 percent) and FELDA Keratong 10 (9.9 percent).
Mazlan (photo left) said that unlike previous by-elections where FELDA were considered near impenetrable BN strongholds, settlers were receptive and turned up at their ceramahs.
FELDA settlements have traditionally been difficult to reach by the opposition due to its often isolated locations and self-subsistence thanks to dedicated facilities built by the government.
“If we were to compare to the 13th General Election, at that time, FELDA Global Ventures (FGV) was only just listed and settlers received a windfall of up to RM15,000 so BN won big.
“But since then, FGV shares have fallen and our warnings about how FELDA settlers will face hardship turned into a reality,” he told Malaysiakini.
During the general election, FGV’s shares which was distributed to settlers was worth around RM4.60 each. The share closed at RM2.09 today (May 6). Voting data suggests that the youth vote swing was more than 10 percent, while there was also noticeable swing among the elderly voters, who have traditionally been staunch BN supporters.
Pending lawsuits against FELDA
Mazlan pointed out that the FELDA Keratong cluster had been a focus for PAS, which was assisting some 700 settlers with their lawsuits against FELDA for allegedly cheating them by purchasing their oil palm fruits at a lower price than what they are worth in the market.
“Seven hundred settlers is a significant number and when they are angry at FELDA, they are also angry at the government as FELDA is a federal agency,” he said. He added the discontent in FELDA was further aggravated by the fall on commodity prices which made life difficult for them.
Putrajaya’s announcement during the by-election that it was offering houses to the descendents of FELDA settlers for merely RM90,000 instead of the initial price of RM125,000 did little to ease this anger. When the by-election was finally over, BN lost two FELDA polling districts to PAS, namely FELDA Keratong 2 and FELDA Keratong 4.
In contrast, PAS only succeeded in winning a single polling district during the last general election, namely Bandar Baru Rompin due to anti-government sentiment among Chinese voters. Even FELDA Keratong 9, which saw the smallest swing against BN among the settlements, stood at 5.6 percent while other settlements in the Keratong cluster are FELDA Keratong 1 (8.7 percent), FELDA Keratong 2 (6.3 percent) and FELDA Keratong 8 (6.8 percent).
Smaller FELDA settlements also saw similar trends with FELDA Selanchar 3 seeing a 13 percent swing against BN while FELDA Selendang saw a 4.5 percent swing against the ruling coalition.
The anti-GST sentiment also helped PAS snap up other polling districts such as the fairly developed township of Muadzam Shah and Pianggu.
The polling districts of Pianggu and Leban Chondong were outliers with the former swinging heavily against BN, at 13.2 percent while the later swung 12.3 percent in favour of BN. It should be noted that both polling districts were affected by the massive flooding last year and local factors such as how well reconstruction efforts went could have influenced voters.
Chinese voters backed BN
Even though PAS bagged several new polling districts, it lost Bandar Baru Rompin, possibly due to the party playing the hudud card towards the tail end of the campaign.The polling district, which comprise 81 percent Malays and 14 percent Chinese, swung 4.4 percent in favour of BN.
This pattern can be observed in all other polling districts with substantial Chinese voters including Kuala Rompin (27 percent Chinese) which swung 9.6 percent to BN and Endau (16 percent Chinese) swinging 5.7 percent to BN. But PAS Vice President Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, who led the party’s machinery in the Rompin by-election said GST was a bigger factor compared to hudud.”GST was a major factor as it was PAS’ slogan that a vote for it is a vote against GST. This was why the youth rejected UMNO.
“Hudud was not a major factor as PAS did not use it as a campaign issue, it was only used minimally,” he told Malaysiakini when contacted. It is however difficult to draw a objective conclusion on Chinese voting patterns as they make up only 2 percent of the constituents.
BN’s Hasan Arifin, who is former Pahang Deputy Menteri Besar, retained the parliamentary seat with a 8,895-vote majority, significantly lower than predecessor Jamaluddin Jarjis’ 15,114-vote majority. Hasan (photo, waering songkok) garnered 23,796 votes while PAS’ Nazri Ahmad received 14,901 votes.
BN may attribute its reduced majority to the low turnout of 73 percent compared to 85.5 percent in the last general election, the fact remains BN lost several polling districts to PAS and its share of votes fell.
UMNO Vice President Hishammuddin yesterday appeared to acknowledge this, stating that the government needed to take cognisance of the by-election outcome.
“We also understand that people are sending certain messages to the government – both state and federal – we will take note of these (messages),” he had said.