Tanjong Piai, an ethnically mixed semi rural parliamentary constituency in Southern Johor has delivered a bloody black eye to the high leadership of Pakatan Harapan (PH), Malaysia’s ruling political coalition. The teflon has come off from the Pakatan’s leadership, especially from its supreme leader, Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Just eighteen months earlier he had been widely hailed as the stalwart saviour salvaging a runaway kleptocratic state. Dr Mahathir’s leadership is currently the subject of much annoyance and acrimony.
The devastating defeat of Karmaine Sardini, PH’s candidate by Dr Wee Jeck Seng, the Opposition candidate from the MCA by a massive margin of more than fifteen thousand votes suggests a bloodthirsty backlash against the ruling government. Leading functionaries of the ruling government have graciously accepted the defeat, congratulated the victorious MCA candidate but have at the same time cautioned and censured their coalition leadership for their candidate’s poor showing. There are many critiques of the by-election result, some finger pointing but there is a general consensus that it should have been anticipated. It is entirely possible that the by-election debacle will rile and rue the coalition and if that is not contained it could very easily ruin whatever fragile semblance of unity