NEVER mind the low turnout, it does not mean that PAS is losing or had lost its traditional support in Chempaka with the death of the party’s icon, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, the holder of the state seat of more than two decades before his death last month.
This scenario is only expected of a by-election which Barisan Nasional did not contest, especially if it is being held in a constituency where the strength of BN’s opposing party was indisputable.
Take the case of Bukit Gelugor, a DAP stronghold; the by-election held in May last year to replace the late Karpal Singh, a very senior DAP leader, saw only 56.05% voter turnout.
In 2009, the by-election in Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s turf Penanti, saw even a lower turnout at 46.1%.
Voter turnout in Chempaka was 55%, lower than the 70% estimated by the Election Commission and the 85% obtained in the 13th General Election.
Chempaka, being in PAS’ hands for the last 25 years and with its former representative none other than the highly respected former Kelantan Menteri Besar and spiritual leader of the Islamist party, proved to be an easy win.
The party had retained the state seat with a higher majority than what was recorded in the 12th General Election, when its candidate Ahmad Fathan Mahmood@Muhammad garnered 10,899 votes, winning with a 10,092-vote majority in a five-cornered fight.
This is way higher than the 6,500-vote majority secured by Nik Aziz in the 13th General Election. Then Nik Aziz garnered 12.310 votes to BN candidate Wan Razman Wan Abdul Razak’s 5,810 votes.
The highly probable reason for the low turnout was that Ahmad Fathan was a clear winner from day one.
It is also a likelihood that many of the 1,800-odd outstation voters did not return as they were confident of PAS retaining its traditional seat, come what may.
The other contributing factor is that Umno members had stayed away from voting since BN, usually represented by Umno in Chempaka, did not contest.
Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof had aptly concluded the Chemapa situation thus: “Our opinion is that this was a decision made by those who did not want to cast their votes today, or that those living outside Chempaka decided not to return to vote.”
Ahmad Fathan also had to share votes with four other candidates who contested as Independents, although all of them did poorly.
Among them, only Sharif Mahmood, who held positions in both Umno and Perkasa before, secured a significant number of votes — 807. The votes were likely contributed by Umno members and supporters who are among Chempaka’s 21,890 registered voters.
There was no directive from Umno or BN, according to its Kelantan chief Datuk Mustapa Mohamed; but it seemed some of them had put the cross in the box next to Sharif’s name on the ballots.
Some votes could have also gone into Ahmad Fathan’s bag due to his popularity as a religious figure in the area.
The sole woman candidate Fadzillah Hussin only managed 89 votes, Izat Bukhary Ismail Bukhary, 51 votes and Aslah Mamat, 27 votes.
Some of the 140 spoilt votes were also likely deliberately made by irresponsible individuals; Malaysian voters, regardless of whether they are from an urban or rural constituency, are matured and they understand fully the power of a single vote in a democratic process of electing representatives to Parliament and state legislative assemblies.
Ahmad Fathan knew that he was the indisputable front-runner despite having to face four other contenders as they were aware only he had a formal platform to fight for the people of Chempaka.
An imam of Kg Baung mosque, he is quite a well-known ustaz who gives religious classes at several mosques and madrasah in Pengkalan Chepa.
The newly elected assemblyman is also not oblivious that he has big shoes to fill now that he has officially taken over the seat vacated by someone like Nik Aziz.
He had pledged before the election to continue the work of his predecessor, in terms of service to society, religious knowledge and promoting people’s welfare.
The people of Chempaka can rest assured that a pious leader like him is more likely than not will keep to his word.*Seasoned journalist Zubaidah Abu Bakar takes a keen interest in Malaysia’s vibrant and sometimes dramatic political landscape.*