Penang DAP vice-chairman Zairil Khir Johari said that this is because by-election voting patterns are different from those of general elections. To begin with, Zairil said, the stakes are worlds apart. - NST FILE PIC

GEORGE TOWN: Pakatan Harapan's (PH) defeat in the Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election on Saturday is unlikely to reflect voting patterns in the next general election, a DAP lawmaker said today.

Penang DAP vice-chairman Zairil Khir Johari said that this is because by-election voting patterns are different from those of general elections.

To begin with, Zairil said, the stakes are worlds apart.

In a general election, he said that there is an awareness of a bigger picture at play, not to mention different campaigning dynamics and significant votes from returning outstation and overseas voters. He said that in a general election, people also vote to choose a government.

He added that by-elections, on the other hand, are usually an opportunity for voters to either gain something or to express displeasure.

"In short, the Tanjung Piai by-election loss is neither shocking nor a foretelling of doom for Pakatan. It is what it is – a by-election loss, and one that is rather consistent with historical trends. It is also unlikely to reflect voting patterns in the next general election.

"But while there is no need to panic unnecessarily, it would also be foolhardy to ignore the sentiment of the voters. Clearly, a message has been loudly delivered. There is disillusionment and frustration from voters who perhaps expect much more from the new government.

"At the same time, it also proves the efficacy of the Trumpian strategy of fake news and hate speech. So pervasive has it become that (DAP supremo) Lim Kit Siang even described the by-election as the 'most despicable and unprincipled' he has ever seen," Zairil said.

He said Barisan Nasional (BN) will undoubtedly bask in the glory of their strong victory.

However, he said to read too much into it would be their folly.

"Just because they won does not mean that the people have forgiven them, or that they can accept (former Prime Minister) Datuk Seri Najib Razak again, or that they want Barisan back at the helm, especially with Pas as their new ally.

"(As) for Pakatan, this defeat could easily spiral out of control if the coalition does not get its act together, particularly where information and communication is concerned. It is particularly disconcerting that Barisan appears to be winning the media war, both traditional and social.

"(Also), the prevalence of fake news and hate speech, and its effect on voter sentiment, is not to be underestimated and needs addressing. As we all know, politics is very much about perception. Much thought and reflection are required if Pakatan wishes to repair its image.

"So where do we go from here? Hopefully not back," he added.

BN wrested back the Tanjung Piai parliamentary seat by a huge 15,086 majority yesterday, 18 months after it lost the seat in the 14th general election to PH.

BN’s Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng, who had been a two-term Tanjung Piai Member of Parliament in the past, polled 25,466 votes, while PH's candidate Karmaine Sardini received 10,380 votes.

Gerakan’s Wendy Subramaniam garnered 1,707 votes and Berjasa candidate Datuk Dr Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz polled 850 votes. The two Independent candidates, Faridah Aryani Abd Ghani and Dr Ang Chuan Lock, only garnered 380 and 32 votes, respectively.

Aside from Wee and Karmaine, all the other four candidates lost their respective election deposits.