MP Rembau gets the analysis right and arrives at the proper inference:
After a hard fought campaign, it's only fair that I begin with the obligatory tributes to those at the forefront of Barisan Nasional's efforts in Hulu Selangor. Chief amongst these are the Prime Minister YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak himself who came personally to campaign not only as Premier, but also as UMNO Liaison Chief for Selangor, the Deputy Prime Minister YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who led the campaign, BN Hulu Selangor parliamentary by-election deputy director YB Datuk Seri Noh Omar and operations director YB Datuk Ir Mohd Zin Mohamed, and the secretariat led by Dato’ Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Datuk Ahmad Maslan, Datuk Abdul Rauf Yusoh and Datuk Abu Khamis. I also take pride in the fact that the BN Youth election machinery executed our strategy well resulting in positive gains among the younger generation. Not least, the man of the hour YB P. Kamalanathan who campaigned well and - despite provocative attacks by the PKR election machinery - managed to smile his way through the challenges.
We can expect everyone to be poring through the numbers trying to ascertain what conclusions can be drawn from the by-election, some maybe clutching at the slightest hint of a silver lining. Let there be no doubt, this was a crucial by-election – one that the PM himself acknowledged as a referendum of his leadership. But first things first, it gave BN the opportunity to win its first parliamentary by-election since the 12th General Election. We realized early on that a BN victory here would mean a statement of intent – not just in recapturing Selangor at the next general election but also reclaiming a two thirds majority in Parliament.
For all the above reasons, BN's victory in Hulu Selangor was an important marker, representing a turning point of sorts for us. But ever the cautious optimist, allow me to indulge in a couple of salient developments I noticed upon going through the results.
The first is something that was immediately evident as the results were being reported. Although ethnic Malay and ethnic Indian support was relatively better for BN, it was widely concluded that Chinese votes have not only not improved but deteriorated. Looking at the numbers for key Chinese voting districts, it is evident that Chinese voters chose once again to vote Opposition. We managed to garner only 28% of the Chinese vote (compared to 37% during the last GE). Unsurprisingly, BN lost in almost all the Chinese-majority polling stations – whilst winning almost all the Malay-majority ones.
The second point I want to highlight is the trend pertaining to young voters – and this is something related to the first point. Based on voting stream data, there has been a noticeable shift in the voting pattern of young voters towards BN. As BN Youth Chairman, I am naturally happy with this development, in part given that this was a KPI for us. Granted, data from polling streams may include a mixture of young and older voters but as a rule of thumb it remains the means with which we gauge voting patterns according to age. For those less familiar with the nitty-gritty of post-elections analyses, the crude methodology would be to look at the higher numbered streams at each polling station as an indication of how young voters cast their ballots. Based on this methodology, there was a swing of around 1,329 young voters to BN compared to 2008 at the parliamentary level. In 2008, BN managed to win in only 11 polling streams which we would categorise as consisting of mostly young voters whereas PKR won in 34. This time BN won 30 and PKR 23. (The statistical difference in the total of ‘young voter’ polling streams or saluran muda is due to new streams created at several polling districts).
But the interesting – and perhaps worrying – aspect of the voting pattern amongst the youths in Hulu Selangor is that it is very much reflective of broader trends of voting along ethnic lines. We were able to gain significant improvements in young voter polling streams in Malay and Indian majority areas. The gains were especially significant in the Malay areas. However, in Chinese majority voting districts we suffered a marked erosion in support among the young voters. In Kg. Baharu Kalumpang, for instance, the difference in the winning margin for PKR in the saluran muda jumped by 130 votes. In Kg Baru Rasa, the majority for PKR increased by 241 votes. This signals, among others, a sustained drop in support from younger Chinese voters – perhaps more so than the older generation. As someone who has placed BN Youth and a progressive approach for Malaysians as a priority, this is as stark a reminder as any that more needs to be done to address this particular segment of the population.
Of course, the two observations above, especially the former, will lead and has already led to calls of punishing the Chinese community. There will be familiar refrains of how 'ungrateful' they are and that BN – or UMNO to be exact – should write off the community and focus on the Malay votes. There are many things wrong with this. I will just mention two here.
First, it is fundamentally the wrong thing to do. If we are serious in assisting the PM in realizing his vision of a united 1Malaysia, we need to commit ourselves to doing right by all Malaysians regardless of the electoral reward. And in any case, I am sure if we continue with a centrist course assisting all communities with justice and equality, perceptions will improve. I believe many who vote against us remain cynical and want to see us walk the talk before supporting BN. This is a prevalent sentiment among the younger voters, especially from the Chinese community. So, for us to be sincere in rolling out 1Malaysia, we must not abandon the PM's inclusive leadership just because we are not seeing one community respond to it electorally just yet. This was never meant to be an easy fix. Again, I cannot overstate that it's also the right thing to do; we should do it anyway.
Second, relying on the Malay and Indian vote is strategically dubious. Yes, Hulu Selangor may have seen strong Malay and better Indian support especially when compared to 2008, but there is a sizable proportion of both communities that are sticky supporters of PKR. The notion of Malay unity remains elusive especially in terms of electoral choice. There will always be a sizable proportion - anywhere from 30-50% - in any constituency that will support the opposition, especially the PAS faithful. Indian voters have also demonstrated increasing discernment and much will depend on how they view changes in MIC and the delivery of promises made to them. Thus, abandoning the Chinese community may not be tactically sound especially when BN's hold on the other major communities is not, and never will be, absolute. Never should we forget, in today’s crosscutting political fragmentations, we do not speak for entire communities, not that I think we ever did before.
What this means is that we need to reject voices calling for Chinese voters to be 'punished' or ‘sidelined’. This will be a popular call for some who view politics in terms of electoral results, nevermind that I’ve established that this tactic does not stand up to challenge even if judged purely by electoral reasoning. And call me a wide-eyed idealist, but I have never forgotten that politics is more than just votes; it is also about ideals, principles and doing what’s right. I believe the PM will stick to his 1Malaysia trajectory and keep reforming until voters - of whatever ethnicity - become convinced that the changes are for real and here to stay. Importantly, I am confident that he can convince them.
Young voters have been dismissed as swing votes favoring the opposition. If in Hulu Selangor, bar the Chinese young voters, we managed to get a decent swing back to BN, I have no doubt that if we commit and wholly support the changes introduced by the PM, BN will see positive changes by the general election.