PENANTI, May 31 2009
malaysianinsider | By Syed Jaymal Zahiid and Lee Wei Lian
Dr. Mansor Othman is the new state representative of Penanti and Deputy Chief Minister (DCM) of Penang after winning today’s by-election, garnering a whopping 6,052 out of the total 7,100 votes.
His closest rival was Nai Khan Ari, an independent who received just 494 votes while Aminah Abdullah took 392 votes.
A lower turnout and missing names from electoral rolls marked the sure PR victory at the close of a by-election campaign called ‘uninspiring’ due to Barisan Nasional’s (BN) absence.
But ultimately PKR and PR were the winners as it has now successfully removed a troublesome politician in Fairus Khairuddin who was forced to quit as assemblyman and deputy chief minister because of graft allegations.
The lower voter turnout today showed however that clearly by-election fatigue had set in.
The final turn outtoday was 7,100 voters. The reduced interest in voting is likely due to Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters not coming out to vote in the by-election as their party is not contesting.
BN leaders have called the by-election frivolous and part of a political game and can now use the low turnout as ammunition to say that it is a sign of protest from the voters.
Fairus won 7,346 votes in his electoral debut in Election 2008, winning by a majority of 2,219 against BN’s Datuk Abdul Jalil Abdul Majid.
The double Masters lawmaker said he resigned to further his studies, prompting BN to boycott what it called an uncalled-for by-election.
Mansor, a Yale graduate and a former academic, is expected to be named DCM I after his victory against Aminah, former Gerakan member Nai Khan Ari and Kamarul, who had earlier lost his deposit in the Bukit Gantang vote.
This is the sixth by-election since Election 2008. BN has not won in any of the four previous by-elections in Peninsular Malaysia, only winning in Batang Ai in Sarawak.
Another by-election will be held in the rural Kelantan state seat of Manek Urai on July 14 after its five-term assemblyman Ismail Yaacob from PAS died on May 22.
Earlier PKR said they received ten complaints from voters who found out they were transferred to the Permatang Pasir ward as turnout came in lower than the party’s target of 65 per cent.
The Election Commission (EC) said total voter turnout was 46.15 per cent or 7,100 when polls closed, against the 82.13 per cent in Election 2008. Police said polling was trouble-free.
PKR Penang secretary Lim Boo Cheng said the voters had verified being from the Permatang Pauh parliamenatary constituency but he was unsure if they – one Malay and nine Chinese – had previously voted in Penanti.
PKR election director Saifuddin Nasution earlier today stuck to his forecast of a 65 per cent turnout as the party moved election workers to encourage more to come out and cast their votes.
Voting began at 8am and closed at 5pm in the semi-rural state seat within the PKR political fortress of Permatang Pauh held by its de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Despite Barisan Nasional’s boycott, PKR has focused on the federal government’s rule and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s performance in its nightly ceramahs, saying a bigger majority will underscore the people’s ire against the ruling coalition.
PKR’s Dr Mansor, who has lost in three elections, faced three independents in a by-election that was his to lose.
Mansor told reporters outside the Guar Perahu polling station that the turnout is “very low” when asked about the roughly 30 per cent turnout by noon. He however hoped things pick up after 2 pm.
He earlier claimed to have received up to eight reports of voters finding their names missing from the Penanti electoral rolls during his rounds at the polling centres.
Voters said the EC had transferred them out of the state seat in the latest electoral roll dated April 16.
Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng, who visited polling stations with Mansor and DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang, rapped the EC and called it a conspiracy to sabotage Penanti voters.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof later denied any conspiracy, blaming the voters for not checking the rolls ahead of the by-election.
“They should have checked. This is all the last minute mentality but if we get many complaints, we will probe,” Abdul Aziz told reporters while visiting the polling centres.
He added that 90 per cent of electoral regulations had been met but said voter turnout was still low.
This was seen in both the Berapit and Teluk Wang polling centres. Independent candidate Nai Khan Ari cast his vote in Teluk Wang and told reporters he hoped Penanti voters would give him a chance to represent them.
But turnout at the SMK Guar Perahu polling centre, where PKR lost to BN in the last polls, was high with nearly 400 votes cast at noon.
A PKR election voter claimed that 80 per cent of those going in were the party’s supporters.
Police mounted tight security and deployed Light Strike Force units armed with batons and shields outside the polling centres where most voters trickled in.
Polls observers said the heavy police presence was unnecessary and is seen as intimidating apart from defying international norms.
However, police have been putting in extra policemen for the by-elections which has ramped up government costs, a reason cited by the BN to skip the Penanti vote.
For this by-election, Mansor and four independents – Aminah Abdullah, Mohd Saberi Osman, Nai Khan Ari and Kamarul Ramizu Idris – had filed their nomination papers on May 23 but Saberi was disqualified as PKR proved he was a bankrupt.
PKR’s greatest challenge has been Aminah, its former Penang Wanita chief, who claimed the party had tried to bribe her RM80,000 to quit the race or offered her the deputy chief minister I post if she rejoined upon victory.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) are investigating her claims.
Police are also investigating its own reports that DAP strongman Lim Kit Siang and PKR’s Padang Serai MP N. Gobalakrishnan had committed sedition and criminal defamation for linking Najib to the Perak power grab and the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder during the election campaign.
The police had banned both topics in ceramahs at the Bukit Gantang parliamentary by-election last month but the opposition had defied them.
“In Najib’s Malaysia, speaking truth has become sedition criminal defamation. Darkness descending on Malaysia. Malaysians must not be cowed,” Kit Siang said after the police took his statement in his Island Glades home.
The Ipoh Timur MP has been one of the Pakatan Rakyat icons that have appeared in the daily ceramahs. Others who have spoken included Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, Kelantan mentri besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, Selangor mentri besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and Anwar himself.
The Penanti by-election will use the 2008 electoral roll that was updated April 16 that records 15,384 registered voters with 24 postal voters.
The electorate comprises 72.68 per cent Malays, 24.22 per cent Chinese, 2.39 per cent Indians and 0.71 per cent others.