Key takeaways from Kemaman

Emmanuel Joseph

Perikatan Nasional continues to fully occupy the Terengganu assembly and all of the state's federal seats with a win in Kemaman. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 6, 2023.

THE Terengganu by-elections are done and dusted. Their political impact is yet to be fully seen or understood.

Some lessons are obvious.

A repeat of the Sheraton Move is unlikely to occur; Anwar’s position is too strong.

In the foreseeable future, his relationship with his PH colleagues, BN allies, and new friends in Borneo shows no signs of trouble, unaffected by the internal politics of these parties.

PAS is asserting its position within Perikatan Nasional, by presenting their strongest “moderate” candidate, offering itself for a greater role within the coalition corresponding with its number of elected representatives.

To its detractors and non-voters, PAS is seen to be winning back lost ground and attempting to showcase a result-oriented instead of a religious-centric government.

Umno’s relatively cosy relationship with PH puts it on a stronger footing compared with its previous relationship with Bersatu, and with both PKR’s and Umno’s allies not stirring issues, the pact is in a far more solid place than the one before it.

But it is foolhardy to say that PH and BN are safe, and that the by-elections will not affect them.

One year into a new government and the by-elections that followed the general election demonstrate that PH and BN are at best maintaining a firm but weakening grip on power.

There is no indication of a shift in support for PH and BN; rather, the opposite, in the Malay belt.

This is quite alarming The previous government was able to blame its dwindling political support on Covid 19, the lockdown, and ensuing political chaos. The present one does not have these excuses to fall back on.

With the region reopening, we should be seeing improving economic sentiment and buyer confidence inching up, but if the past two festivals are any barometer, the widespread belt-tightening does not bode well for our country and its administrators.

With many pundits not yet seeing a silver bullet in sight, small gestures like the RM100 e-wallet credit and visa-free entry for Chinese and Indian tourists are too few and far between to muster a sufficient response.

What little good news there is is also drowned out by impositions of new taxes mainly affecting the upper strata of society, causing them to also tighten their purse strings.

With no catalyst events, we are left to rely on organic growth, a rise in demand for our core exports, and capital inflow from investments.

The core support group of PH and, by extension, BN, has not responded to this in an adverse manner so far.

Yet at the rate things are going, PH simply cannot afford any more dents in its support base.

If the PAS-Bersatu core supporters aren’t responding to Anwar’s overtures, he should change his approach or focus on his own support group and demonstrate how support for the government translates into better lives and livelihoods for the people..

If the strength of confidence in the two main component parties is further eroded, it could lead to their looser allies abandoning them.

The administration cannot afford to take things for granted anymore.

There is too little space and time for them to do that. – December 6, 2023.

* Emmanuel Joseph firmly believes that Klang is the best place on Earth, and that motivated people can do far more good than any leader with motive.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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