The ongoing Permatang Pauh by-election campaign reminds me of the Hulu Selangor by-election of 2010. In that by-election, P. Kamalanathan of MIC (Barisan Nasional) faced Zaid Ibrahim of PKR (Pakatan Rakyat).
In the 2008 general election, the late Dr Zainal Abidin Ahmad of PKR won that seat with an extremely slim majority of just 198 votes. Kamalanathan won that same seat two years later with a majority of 1,725 votes, much to everyone’s surprise who had expected Zaid to win mainly because Kamalanathan was an ‘unknown’ while Zaid was a high-profile figure.
There were, of course, all sorts of reasons given why Zaid lost, internal party sabotage being one of them, but many agreed that Kamalanathan won because he presented himself as a more likeable character compared to Zahid who was said to be a bit aloof.
Some even indicated that Zaid did not look people in the face when he salam and this put people off who interpreted this as being not too friendly. But the bottom line is we never know why voters vote for you and a simple smile and eye contact could be all it takes to win their votes.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is currently campaigning against Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and the issue being raised is that Umno is no longer a good party and is going to suffer in the coming general election if the leadership is not changed.
Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali is using this attack on the Prime Minister to tell the voters in Permatang Pauh that Dr Mahathir himself has condemned Umno so the voters should reject that party in favour of PKR.
Azmin is playing a very clever game of Taichi and in Taichi you turn your opponents’ attack against them.
Azmin is turning Dr Mahathir’s attacks as his Taichi and is using Dr Mahathir’s own words to tell the voters that Umno is not worthy of their votes.
This is the danger you face when you run down your own party. Your opponent can use this back against you. And in Permatang Pauh this is what is happening, the opposition is using what Dr Mahathir is saying to its advantage.