The announced official result of Manek Urai state by-election in Kelantan on Tuesday night was certainly not an occasion for cheering if you’re in Pakatan Rakyat, particularly PAS.
The Islamic party candidate Mohd Fauzi, 50, polled 5,348 votes, 65 more than Tuan Aziz of BN who garnered 5,283 votes.
“One things is definite now – PAS will go through some difficult debates now,” said Dr Farish A. Noor when asked for his immediate reaction to the by-election result via Facebook on Tuesday’s night.
Dr Farish, a political historian and is presently a Senior Fellow at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, pointing his finger to so called “Erdogan” group – a moderate faction in PAS for the party dismal performance in Manek Urai.
“The critics of the moderates have claimed that by their tacit and explicit commitment to the Pakatan and the goal of a plural democratic Malaysia they have undermined the Islamist basis of PAS,” Dr Farish said.
According to Dr Farish, the more vocal members of the conservative camp have made it clear that they are unwilling to go along blindly with the PR bandwagon, and have expressed their distaste for some of the principles that the Pakatan stands for, including freedom of belief, the right for citizens to have a private space, a neutral public domain free of moral policing etc.
Now, he said, the conservatives may argue that PAS would have won bigger had it remained closer to its fundamental Islamist agenda rather than jumping into bed with the liberal-democrats of PKR and the secular leftists of DAP and PSM.
The internal infighting is one of the many problems plaguing Pakatan Rakyat, according to Ibrahim Suffian of opinion research firm Merdeka Center.
He said PR still relying too much on voters’ disaffection of BN, which has been gradually withering since the 2008 General Election to win by-elections.
“They actually want to compete against BN.
If in 2008, voters were fed-up with BN, saying BN arrogant… these too happen in Pakatan now,” said Ibrahim when discussing Manek Urai by-election result over Astro satellite TV channel – Astro Awani on Tuesday night.
“This (the near-loss of PAS in Manek Urai) is a wake-up call for Pakatan to get their house in order.”
On the other side of the bench, things starting to look more hopeful after Manek Urai. A Pakatan loss – is a BN gains – as Malaysia’s political landscape slowly evolving into a two-party system.
Many political observers believe, now it’s really up to BN and Najib administration to decide what they should do next.
It’s a matter of them “… touching the right buttons and by taking up some of the causes that were made public by the opposition,” according Dr Farish.
“BN government is in a position to deliver the goods thanks to the position they hold at the Federal level,” he added.
Meanwhile, BN Kelantan’s election director Datuk Mustapa Mohamed described the narrow margin victory by PAS, compared with the March 8, 2008 general election, as a clear indication that the people have accepted Umno.
“It is a moral victory for BN and we lost by just 65 votes with the 1,352 majority earlier. We had fielded a capable candidate who had worked very hard to ensure BN’s victory,” Bernama reports on Wednesday.
“It is a good sign that people are beginning to accept BN and that has given new inspiration for Kelantan Umno to continue striving for excellence to ensure BN’s victory in the next general election.”