By Lee Wei Lian
KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — The win by Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin, the ousted mentri besar of Perak, in tonight's by-election in Bukit Gantang will likely place additional pressure on the Barisan Nasional state government, say some political analysts.
The by-election was widely perceived to be a referendum of sorts on whether Pakatan Rakyat's Nizar or BN's Datuk Zambry Abdul Kadir, who was sworn in by the Sultan of Perak in February, is the people's choice.
"The result will increase pressure on the present state government to deliver on their promises because in some ways, the Bukit Gantang by-election is a referendum on who the people of Perak want as the state government," says Ibrahim Suffian of Merdeka Centre, a political science and economics research firm. "The margin of victory is a validation that the state votes for the Pakatan Rakyat remain intact and if a statewide election is held, the results will be similar."
Professor Mohamad Agus Yussoff, a political scientist at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, concurs but adds that despite the electorate having spoken, the matter should be left to the courts.
Tony Pua, DAP's national publicity secretary, says that the election results are an endorsement of the ousted Pakatan Rakyat government in Perak and that the nearly 100 per cent increase in the margin of victory is a message for new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that Perakians want the assembly dissolved for fresh elections.
"It is high time, as a new prime minister, to do the right thing for democracy in Malaysia by ensuring that the people of Perak get a government they have themselves elected," said Pua in a media release, referring to Najib's statement that he wanted to build a democracy responsive to the people’s needs.
PR won with a majority of 2,789 votes compared with 1,566 in last year's general election.
The prime minister has been speaking the language of reform, of building a performance based nation and committed himself to meeting the needs, aspirations and concerns of all Malaysians.
Agus, however, says the election results are a sign of voters sending a message to Najib that he will have to show substantive results from his reform proposals.
"The people are not stupid anymore. They are not buying into promises. They want to see results," says Agus.
"The reforms sound fantastically good but only when people start believing the results will they gain confidence and come back to BN."
Pua holds a similar view and says: "Najib has his work cut out for him and it is quite clear that Malaysians will not give him a 100-day honeymoon period to perform. He must hence immediately institute firm and resolute measures to eradicate corruption, overhaul archaic and repressive laws and dismantle discriminatory policy tools antithetical to his ‘One Malaysia’ agenda."
Closely analysed will be the racial breakdown of voting patterns in the by-election. "This election indicates the attractiveness of PR's ketuanan rakyat to non-Malays and that Umno's promises to defend the Malays may not have been bought into," says Ibrahim.
He thinks that the victory for Nizar, who is from PAS, will further strengthen the moderate voices within the conservative Islamist party and shows that its hardcore supporters have not been alienated.
Perak Umno secretary Datuk Ramly Zahari, however, denies that BN has lost Malay support. "We still maintained the Malay votes that we got in 2008," he said.