B.Suresh Ram and
PETALING JAYA, Jan 29, 2007 - As the Barisan Nasional basks in its victory in the Batu Talam state by-election, Opposition parties dismiss it and say their boycott of the poll has had some impact, gauging from the voter turnout.
It is an endorsement on the continued leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said Umno information chief Senator Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib.
"It shows an increased confidence in the leadership of Pak Lah," he added.
In the Batu Talam state by-election yesterday which saw a 67.3% voter turnout, BN candidate Abdul Aziz Mat Kiram won with a 5,857 majority, receiving 6,276 votes while independent candidate, Ng Chee Pang, only garnered 419 votes. There were 385 spoilt votes.
Muhammad said the good performance by the BN was a positive mid-term review of the government by the electorate, since the general elections in March 2004.
He said the victory was even more meaningful considering the move by PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat to boycott the by-election.
"It was a big blow to them as many came out to vote," he told theSun, adding that the 67.3% voter turnout was comparatively good and in the same league as the turnout for other by-elections in the past.
Muhammad said in any by-election, the voter turnout was usually low because the voters knew that no matter who they voted, they would not be able to change the current government.
Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who is also Gerakan deputy president, said the non-Malay voters, the majority of whom hailed from Kampung Cheroh, had voted for the BN.
He said the results reflected the voters' support for the BN and prime minister.
"About 80% of the Chinese and Indian voters from Kampung Cheroh voted for the BN this time compared with 72% in the 2004 general election.
"This is very encouraging for the BN in the midst of allegations of decline in support for the BN. Non-Malay voters gave their support to the BN even though there were many economic and political issues which hogged the limelight recently.
"The said Opposition 'boycott' also failed to lure more support for the independent candidate from the Chinese and Indian voters, thanks to the effortless campaigning by component parties," Koh said.
Koh was speaking to reporters after launching the Penang Skills Development Centre SME business-coaching programme.
PAS secretary-general Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar said despite the BN victory, the opposition party was still claiming a moral victory of sorts.
He said this was because the voter turnout was comparatively lower than that in past by-elections and general elections.
He added that PAS was still a force to be reckoned with and the only worthy opponent in the Batu Talam constituency.
"The fact is that many voted out of obligation and duty. Not going to vote was akin to breaking the law and the norm to these rural folks," he said.
Kamaruddin said the opposition party would participate in the next general elections provided the electoral conditions improved.
Keadilan information chief Tian Chua said the BN did not face a worthy opponent in the by-election.
"They won without a contest," he said.
Chua also said that a check by the party showed that the voters were not enthusiastic about casting the ballot but merely voted out of duty.
"They already knew who was going to win," he said.
Chua added that the fact that the independent candidate even got 419 votes showed that there were protest votes against the ruling coalition. "In the end, all they (BN) had was hollow victory," he said. Sun2Surf