PORT DICKSON - Former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim stormed to victory in the Port Dickson by-election on Saturday (Oct 13), garnering 72 per cent of the valid votes cast.
The Election Commission (EC) declared Datuk Seri Anwar, de facto leader of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, the winner after securing 31,016 votes, representing an overwhelming margin of 23,560 votes against his next closest contender.
Trailing in distant second place was Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) candidate Mohd Nazari Mokhtar with 7,456 votes and independent candidate Isa Samad, with 4,230 votes.
Voters in the Malaysia parliamentary ward of Port Dickson went to the ballot box to pick a new lawmaker on Saturday in a closely watched seven-way by-election.
According to the EC, a total of 58.2 per cent of the 68,317 eligible voters of the Negeri Sembilan constituency, widely referred to as PD by most Malaysians, had cast their votes. This was the highest turnout for a by-election since the general election in May, but still fell short of the 70 per cent target set by the EC.
The win paves the way for Mr Anwar to return to Parliament and eventually ascend to become Prime Minister, as agreed by the Pakatan Harapan coalition.
The day kicked off with a light drizzle in most parts of the constituency in the early hours of Saturday, but the rains ceased after 8am.
Mr Anwar told reporters he was quite happy with the progress at the polling stations on Saturday morning, but noted that the momentum was still slow in some areas.
"I think we have to encourage more people to come out early (to vote)," he told reporters as he arrived at one of the polling stations at 10.30am.
Asked what he felt his chances were of winning the by-election, the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president-elect said he was "praying for the best", reported The Star newspaper.
The 71-year-old is widely expected to win, raising him as a federal lawmaker and a step closer to fulfilling a plan by the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to make him Malaysia's eighth prime minister in about 18 months from now.
A survey of 1,084 voters conducted by the Institut Darul Ehsan think-tank on Oct 8 and 9 found that 74 per cent will vote for Mr Anwar.
Mr Anwar, who is from Penang, is not a voter in the ward. Of the seven candidates, only independent Isa Samad is a voter of the ward.
The 14-day campaign period for the by-election ended a few hours earlier, at midnight on Friday.
Under a succession plan agreed by PH leaders before the May general election, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 93, will run the country for about two years before passing the baton to Mr Anwar.
The multiracial coastal ward comprises 43 per cent Malays, 33 per cent Chinese, 21 per cent Indian and 3 per cent of other ethnicities.
The previous PD MP, Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah from PKR, stepped down voluntarily to allow Mr Anwar to contest.
The seat is considered a stronghold for PH as PKR, which Mr Anwar leads, won comfortably in the last three general elections.
In the May national polls, Mr Danyal defeated two candidates by winning 59.1 per cent of the valid votes cast. He garnered 36,224 votes, winning by a majority of 17,710.
Total voter turnout was a strong 82.3 per cent.
The PD by-election is the fourth by-election since the May polls.
The first three by-elections, all held in Selangor, saw turnout of 49.8 per cent, 44 per cent and 43 per cent - due to voter fatigue.
Though his victory is all but assured, the Malaysian political giant needs a high turnout for political legitimacy. Of the other six candidates, only two are considered serious contenders.
One is Tan Sri Isa, who is a former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar and former Umno vice-president.
The other prominent candidate is former air force officer Mohd Nazari Mokhtar of PAS.
One of the independents is Mr Anwar's former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who accused the PKR leader of sodomising him, which resulted in Mr Anwar being jailed in 2015 for the second time. Mr Mohd Saiful received 82 votes.
The other three independent candidates are political unknowns, Ms Lau Seck Yan (214 votes), Mr Stevie Chan Keng Leong (337 votes) and Mr Kan Chee Yuen (154 votes).