Calon Barisan Nasional (BN) Datuk Mah Siew Keong berjaya memenangi Pilihan Raya Kecil (PRK) Teluk Intan mengalahkan calon DAP Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud dengan majoriti 238 undi.
Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR) mengumumkan Mah berjaya memperoleh 20,157 undi manakala Dyana meraih 19,919 undi.
PRK Teluk Intan hari ini menyaksikan peratusan keluar mengundi adalah 66.67% bersamaan 40,236 pengundi, menyaksikan kedua terendah dalam PRK yang pernah diadakan selepas PRU13. - tmi
You haven't seen the last of me, vows Dyana...
The Election Commission officially declared the Gerakan president the winner with 20,157 votes against Dyana's 19,919. There were 550 spoilt votes.
Mah had previously been the member of Parliment for Teluk Intan after winning the seat in the 1999 and 2004 general elections.
Losing by a whisker of 238 votes in her election debut will not signal the end of Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud's politcal career.
Speaking to about 200 dejected supporters gathered at the party operations centre in the Perak town, she said this is not the last time they will hear of her.
"This is not the end of Dyana Sofya. The people of Teluk Intan just knew me for two weeks, but gave me 19,919 votes. I will not let you down," said the calm-looking DAP candidate clad in a purple baju kurung and black scarf.
The 27-year-old politician said that her struggle is not to win a MP seat but for a greater purpose.
"We need to put a stop to racial politics. I am not only contesting against Mah (Siew Keong), but the whole machinery (of BN).
"Mah only won by (about) 200 votes," she said.
Tears flow at operations centre
"Don't be disappointed, be with me and continue the fight, I invite all of you to join us in the fight," she said.
Though she appeared calm, there was a moment when she paused appearing to keep her composure in check, when thanking the supporters and campaign team.
She was accompanied by DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang, secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and other DAP leaders who came to thank supporters.
The atmosphere was sombre at the operations centre, with many supporters seen shedding tears and hugging each other in dismay.
The announcement of the official result was delayed by more than an hour as the initial counting of votes concluded just before 8.30pm that BN had won by the same majority.
The DAP initially said they might consider asking for a recount due to the very low majority.
The party’s election strategist Dr Ong Kian Ming at that time said it was up to the party leaders to decide whether to concede defeat.
"We are disappointed with the results, but I think we knew it would be a tough fight right from the beginning," Ong told The Malaysian Insider at the DAP's operation centre in Teluk Intan.
"I think Dyana is a candidate who fought well and represented herself well. So I hope that this can represent the spirit of the party moving forward even though we have a temporary setback."
Dyana told the sombre crowd outside the operation centre that the battle was not over.
"Honestly, I am disappointed I was unable to defend the Teluk Intan seat. But this is not the end of Dyana.
"I will not let you down. I will still stay here and I shall focus on the rakyat of Teluk Intan."
She said they were up against the entire BN machinery yet lost by only about 200 votes. - mk/tmi
Delving into DAP's shock defeat...
But there were several factors building up to her defeat, chief among them being disinterested outstation voters as the contest had no bearing on the balance of power.
BN's triumph over Dyana was spectacular.
Just this morning, Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong did not appear confident of his chances, with his aide lashing out at journalists for reporting Mah's remark urging the people of Teluk Intan not to allow outstation voters to decide the town's fate.
However, Mah got his wish when what started as a strong turnout this morning eventually dwindled, with only a total of 67.4 percent of voters casting their ballots when polls closed at 5pm.
This was in contrast to the 80.4 percent turnout in the 13th general election.
Outstation voters failed to deliver
Outstation voters, largely youth and urbanites, who are the core support base for DAP, had failed to deliver.
In the absence of this, DAP could only fall back on their usual Chinese electorate, but most of them residing in the semi-rural constituency of Teluk Intan are older conservative voters, and they too did not deliver.
An example that fits this demography perfectly is Kampung Batu 12, a Chinese new village which DAP won by 68.5 percent in 2013 but this time was wrested by BN, which gained 51.5 percent of the votes.
Why the swing among conservative Chinese voters to BN?
"It could be a combination of voting along ethnic lines and also pragmatic considerations," pollster Merdeka Centre director Ibrahim Suffian (left) told Malaysiakini.
This trend is consistent with the Kajang by-election in March which also showed a swing in Chinese votes to BN when a change in the balance of power is not a factor like in a general election and the “what's in it for me” mindset takes precedent.
In terms of pragmatic considerations, Mah is a local-born boy whose family has deep ties with the southern town and has served as a two-term MP there since 1999 before being defeated by DAP in 2008.
Mah also made a clear offer to the people of Teluk Intan, among them included obtaining a Unesco heritage recognition for the town's landmark Menara Condong (leaning tower) and setting up a university.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's promise to make Mah a federal minister if he wins was equally if not more appealing.
Dyana's manifesto vague
In contrast, Dyana's manifesto had been vague and peppered with general ideas such as empowering women and combating corruption, something that could not resonate with an ageing electorate.
Commenting on this, Ibrahim said even DAP's social media campaign centred around Dyana's personality.
"It was not about what she wanted to do for Teluk Intan, the candidate was not really clear enough on her plans.
"The main lesson learnt is that voters cannot be taken for granted against an experienced candidate," he said.
Even though Chinese voters are the majority in Teluk Intan, these facts cut across racial lines as DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng too conceded that its support across all races fell.
While Lim may portray Dyana's defeat as a rejection of a Malay and a woman, DAP's failure to present an attractive offer was a bigger factor.
"It is back to the drawing board for DAP on fielding a newbie, despite the initial sentiments in their favour during the campaign, it eventually wore off and Dyana was exposed to several criticism," said Ibrahim.
An example was Dyana’s failure to come clean on her mother's status in Malay rights group Perkasa which eventually came back to haunt her and brought her honesty into question including her own status as a lawyer.
DAP also failed to effectively market its novel concept of having a Malay candidate as it did in the Bukit Gelugor by-election which was presented as a celebration of its late veteran MP Karpal Singh or PKR marketing the Kajang by-election as the "Kanjang Move".
Ultimately, Ibrahim said voters chose experience over novelty.
PAS supporters upset over hudud
Would things be different had DAP fielded a local candidate?
Not necessarily, said Ibrahim, pointing out that the party's vote bank of outstation voters did not deliver.
In terms of machinery, Dyana as a parachute candidate did cause resentment among DAP grassroots in the initial stages but this was quickly overcome as the campaign went into full swing.
The focus lies with the PAS machinery, with a senior PAS leader conceding to Malaysiakini that the party's hardcore members were upset at Dyana's anti-hudud stance and refused to campaign for her in the Malay heartland.
This had eventually prompted PAS to rope in its president Abdul Hadi Awang during the final dash of the campaigning to prop up Dyana.
However, Ibrahim said this was not a major factor, as many traditional PAS members already voted against DAP in Teluk Intan in the last general election.
He pointed out the two state seats Pasir Bedamar and Changkat Jong in Teluk Intan had a collective majority of 11,919 votes in the favour of the opposition but this was not translated at the parliamentary level which only saw a 7,313-vote majority for DAP in 2013.
This, he said, suggested split voting, where supporters in Changkat Jong had voted for PAS at the state level but voted against DAP at the federal level, thus it would not have made much difference this time.
Coming out of this by-election, Gerakan is expected to be buoyed by its mini-revival as it will join its peninsular counterpart MCA, whose senators are already sworn in, to take up positions in the cabinet.- mk