Sungai Limau by-election results: Is this the end of Mahathirism?

by Sheridan Mahavera
The Malaysian Insider
November 05, 2013

Analysts say he might have played a role in swaying voters who were still undecided on voting day. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, November 5, 2013.

When Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad descended on Sungai Limau during the last hours of campaigning on November 3, one longtime PAS activist from Alor Star described it as a “relief”.

“Many people in Sungai Limau come from a religious education background,” said the activist, referring to the community of teachers, students and parents involved in the area’s clutch of private and public Islamic schools, which are nationally renowned.

“They still remember how Mahathir used to run down PAS and our Islamic state concept,” said the activist of the former prime minister’s endless tirades against PAS in the few years before he resigned in 2003.

PAS and its Islamist credentials were a regular target of Dr Mahathir’s biting criticism especially after the party gained control of the Terengganu government and made major inroads into Kedah in the 1999 general election.

So it was almost like poetic justice when Dr Mahathir came down to canvass votes for Barisan Nasional from the people he had once slighted.

But if Kedah’s famous son had any influence on the campaign, opined analysts and activists, it was to sway those who were still undecided on voting day itself.

“I don’t believe that his influence these days is as great as the media exaggerates,” says political scientist Professor Datuk Shamsul Amri Baharuddin of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

“Maybe internationally, in places like Somalia, he is still well regarded but not so much locally anymore,” says Shamsul Amri.

Dr Mahathir’s continued influence was the subject of a blog post by DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang just a day before the polls.

In his November 3 post, the Gelang Patah MP speculated as to whether Sungai Limau would be the final blow to the man’s influence, with the headline, “Will Mahathir and Mahathirism suffer a third and probably final set-back…?”

“Religious school administrator Mohd Azam Abdul Samat, 47, of PAS polled 12,069 votes to emerge as the new Sungai Limau assemblyman yesterday.

Mohd Azam defeated former lecturer Dr Ahmad Sohaimi Lazim, 52, of Barisan Nasional (BN) by a majority of 1,084 votes.

Independent pollster Ibrahim Suffian of the Merdeka Center believes that Dr Mahathir’s influence would be the strongest among voters who are already BN supporters and impressionable youth.

“(His influence) would work for someone who had voted for BN in the past but who didn’t or is dissatisfied with the BN and is now confused over who to vote for.

“For this type of person, Dr Mahathir’s aura would still be powerful,” says Ibrahim, who in the past had done surveys on the influence of political personalities such as Dr Mahathir.

Ibrahim’s observations tallies with reports by Pakatan Rakyat activists who said Dr Mahathir mostly made visits to houses of former local PAS leaders.

“He visited PAS leaders who had recently been expelled by the party. We believe their intention was to cause confusion among PAS supporters,” said another Kedah-based PAS activist.

The thinking among PAS, said the activist, was for Dr Mahathir to confuse some PAS supporters into thinking those local leaders were now BN supporters.

“His presence could have had an effect. We don’t deny that,” said the activist.

But even Umno activists admit that Dr Mahathir’s influence is not what it used to be when the former premier routinely grabbed headlines years ago for his scathing attacks against his successor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

“Maybe for the rank and file Umno members, he is a morale booster. But middle-ranking Umno leaders have gotten tired of his criticisms against the party,” says one Kedah Umno veteran.

Though Dr Mahathir’s venom may have been used up, said Shamsul Amri, the same cannot be said of Umno, or more specifically Kedah Umno under Mahathir’s son, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, who spearheaded the Sungai Limau campaign.

This is based on the fact that Umno managed to reduce the 2,774 vote majority obtained by PAS in Sungai Limau during the May 5 general election.

Sungai Limau, Shamsul Amri pointed out, is also a PAS bastion, which has been held by the Islamist party since 1995.

On May 5, Umno regained all the seats it lost to PAS in the 2008 general election. It also has a bigger majority in the state assembly compared to the previous Pakatan Rakyat administration, said Shamsul Amri.

“So while PAS and Pakatan could not do much during their previous rule of Kedah, BN Kedah can now call on all the funds from federal level to develop the state. And now Umno is making inroads into PAS strongholds.”

Just as how voters regard a certain personality may change over time, Shamsul Amri said, the same can be said of loyalties to once well-regarded political parties. – November 5, 2013.

  1. #1 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 5 November 2013 - 10:24 am

    Botak Mukhriz doesn’t have what it takes to run a state.Maybe just throw tax payers’s some money here and there.Wasted all resources available and Kedahan will soon get tired and lose confident of his capability and leadership-yilek.Then time to go back to his papa and cry wolf.Only one way to be rescue is LGE can teach him cat.hahahahahaha

  2. #2 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 5 November 2013 - 10:30 am

    sorry…. teach him to cry cat.wakakakaka

  3. #3 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 5 November 2013 - 11:09 am

    Tipu sini sana fitnah ini itu lama lama jadi dosa besar.Ajaran sesat Islam akan menghantui si Mahatai yang berdosa kepada bangsa dan Negara.Tuuuuuuuuuuuuuuui orang tua yang tak guna..pi jahanam.. usah kacau rakyat yang berbilang kaum cuma nak hidup aman dan damai

  4. #4 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 5 November 2013 - 11:11 am

    Mahatai,sembayang la betul betul sebelum kau disembayangkan !!!

  5. #5 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 5 November 2013 - 11:15 am

    Padan muka kau,niat kau dah tak pakai lagi rakyat jelata dah tau,dah muat dengan kau yang hati busuk macam bangkai biawak.Esok bangun awal sembayang pi Petaling Street beli Perfume Dunhill spray sikit kat badan dan mulut busuk kau ni..

  6. #6 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Tuesday, 5 November 2013 - 11:52 am

    UMNO – immoral and shameless vote buying!

    Why doesn’t UMNO have BN carnivals throughout the country -1kg [email protected], 5kg Rice @RM5?
    IF UMNO can afford this for Sg Limau, why can’t the Federal Government do that for Malaysians?

    Ahem, UMNO is richer than the Federal government? How come? Or is it Mukhriz is richer than the Federal Government? Or Mahathir?

    Padan muka kau, UMNO.

  7. #7 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Tuesday, 5 November 2013 - 12:12 pm

    Perhaps it was a part of God’s grand design that monsterO’mamak still lives today.

    For he may after all be destined by that design to witness first hand the full playout of his retribution.

  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 5 November 2013 - 3:13 pm

    Najib just lied to Christian Amanpour and then came back and immediately laughed in her face by declaring that he will defend use of “Allah” as exclusive to Muslim. Mahathirism can only get worst even if the old man is dead. The damage is done and the version will change and evolve getting only more radical than Mahathir could ever imagine before we can even start to recover and see it receed and even then, it may never go away completely..

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