PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BLOOMBERG) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday (Nov 18) that a serious post-mortem needs to be done to identify why the ruling Pakatan Harapan alliance was defeated in the Tanjung Piai by-election over the weekend.
"A detailed, serious and honest post-mortem must be made at all levels of the parties to find out what was the real reason for the by-election defeat (for PH)," Tun Dr Mahathir said in a statement following the alliance's loss last Saturday in the constituency in Johor state.
The PH chairman said that he expected the opposition to win by a 2,000-vote majority, adding that the 15,086-vote defeat was much worse than he anticipated.
"I take note of the results of the recent by-election. I accept the results made by the people of Tanjung Piai," said the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman.
"I thank all who worked hard throughout the by-election," he added.
This is the first time Dr Mahathir has spoken publicly about the worst by-election defeat for Pakatan since it won the federal government last year.
The Tanjung Piai by-election saw the Barisan Nasional candidate from its Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng, win with an overwhelming 15,086-vote majority.
Mr Wee, a former two-term Tanjung Piai MP, garnered a total of 25,466 votes against the Pakatan candidate from Bersatu, Mr Karmaine Sardini, who obtained 10,380 votes.
Candidates from two smaller opposition parties, Gerakan's Wendy Subramaniam and Berjasa's Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz garnered 1,707 votes and 850 respectively, while independents Ang Chuan Lock received 380 votes and Faridah Aryani Abdul Ghaffar obtained 32 votes.
The Tanjung Piai by-election - triggered by the death of the incumbent - saw the two biggest opposition parties, Umno and the Parti Islam SeMalaysia, campaigning together for the first time since signing a unity charter in September.
Along with the MCA, they set aside their ideological differences to gain victory in the ethnically diverse constituency.
PH unexpectedly swept to power in May 2018 with promises to crack down on corruption, move away from race-based policies and bring down the price of goods and services.
But slower-than-expected reforms, living cost woes, and bickering among leaders have led to disillusionment among some voters, and the alliance has been defeated in four of nine by-elections since then.
PH's top leaders including Dr Mahathir and his designated successor Anwar Ibrahim had made multiple trips to Tanjung Piai to convince voters to keep them in power.
"The majority that the opposition garnered is a shock and it's a clear message to all PH leaders," Datuk Seri Anwar said in a Facebook post last Saturday after the outcome of the vote was announced.
"We need to learn from the result of this by-election. We also need to gain Malaysians' confidence on PH's policies and make a positive effort to fulfil our promises," he added.