KUALA LUMPUR - The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition comfortably retained Rompin in Pahang in a by-election yesterday, but saw its majority cut by nearly half on the back of a lower turnout in the Umno stronghold.
With a turnout of just 74 per cent, Datuk Hasan Arifin's majority was 8,895, compared with the 15,114-vote margin secured by Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis in 2013. Turnout then was 85.9 per cent.
The by-election was triggered by the death of Mr Jamaluddin, a former minister and key ally of Prime Minister Najib Razak. Mr Jamaluddin was killed in a helicopter crash last month.
The by-election took place amid widespread unhappiness over the goods and services tax (GST) implemented on April 1. Datuk Seri Najib has also been under pressure after harsh criticism of his leadership by former premier Mahathir Mohamad.
Mr Najib, whose home state is Pahang, was conspicuous in his absence on the campaign trail.
"Knowing Umno's internal squabbling, there will be people very keen to turn this (reduced support) into an issue," Mr Wan Saiful Wan Jan, head of policy think-tank Ideas, told The Straits Times.
BN has been trying to disassociate the Rompin vote from GST, and Domestic Trade Minister Hasan Malek was chastised as "stupid" by the Umno candidate for saying that the by-election would indicate public acceptance of the new levy.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin also said the poll should not be linked to the tax, which is crucial for BN's plans to cut the growing national debt.
Parti Islam seMalaysia (PAS) candidate Nazri Ahmad managed 14,901 votes, close to the 14,926 the party drew in 2013.
PAS largely campaigned on its own as opposition coalition partners - Democratic Action Party and Parti Keadilan Rakyat - went missing from the two-week campaign. The opposition has been split over PAS' push for hudud.
This article was first published on May 06, 2015.
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