Making sense of the numbers from yesterday’s Hulu Selangor by-election, from the proverbial armchair.
On the eve of polling day for the Hulu Selangor by-election, I predicted on Twitter that Barisan Nasional (BN) would win the election by a majority of around 2,000 – 3,000. I made this prediction simply based on what I have read on the internet thus far. I have not set foot in Hulu Selangor at any time during the campaign period. You may call it an “armchair prediction.”
I made my prediction based on a number of factors. One of the factors is that Hulu Selangor has been a BN “safe seat” for a number of years. All three state seats under the Parliamentary constituency were won by BN in 2008, the small majority of 198 won by the late Member of Parliament and the high number of spoilt votes all show that the win by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in 2008 was due to dissatisfaction with the candidate fielded at the time. I also predicted that the disgusting personal attacks against the PKR candidate would have been a factor, especially amongst the Malay voters.
Now that the results are in, we know that BN won the by-election by a majority of 1,725 or 3.53% percent of the total number of votes, 48,935. So my earlier prediction of 2,000 – 3,000 majority was slightly inaccurate. BN’s majority was slightly less.
Now you can be sure that the headlines will trumpet this as a triumph for BN, proof that BN is “regaining support from the rakyat.” Yet, if we look at the numbers in the Hulu Selangor by-election and compare them with the numbers in the General Elections of 2008, we would see that the conclusion that we can garner from Hulu Selangor is not as straightforward.
Let us first compare the number of votes cast for each party in 2008 and 2010.
We cannot do a side by side comparison between 2008 and 2010, simply because there is an increase in voter turnout for the 2010 by-election. We can, however, compare the percentage of votes cast.
Of course, such comparisons would not be entirely accurate. The people who voted in 2008 would not be the very same people who voted in 2010. Some might have died and new names would have been added as they registered as voters. Some voters who voted in 2008 might not have voted in 2010 and vice-versa.
But it does give us a rough guide to the voting patterns in Hulu Selangor. The percentage of votes for BN increased by 3.05% whilst percentage of votes for PKR decreased by 0.88% in the 2 years or so.
There is an added dimension to the Hulu Selangor numbers – spoilt votes.
In 2008, the number of spoilt votes was 1,466 or 3.06% of total votes cast – an unusually high amount. In 2010, the numbers decreased to 731 votes or 1.49% of total votes cast. The number of spoilt votes decreased by 1.57 %.
We can assume that BN has recuperated some of the spoilt votes in 2008. Indeed, if we make another assumption (albeit a big one) that the 1.57% of spoilt votes last time went to BN this time, it can be concluded there is only about 1.48% vote swing from PKR to BN.
We have to remember that both sides campaigned intensively throughout the campaign period. BN, in particular, seemed to throw in everything to ensure that they recapture the seat. This included the usual pork-barreling (but with a bigger than usual amount), election promises, allegations of drinking and gambling, doctored photographs, mass “exodus” of PKR members and star-studded ceramahs boasting the likes of Tun Mahathir, Ibrahim Ali, Ezam Mohd Noor andvarious top BN leaders. The Deputy Prime Minister was reported by the media as saying that BN targeted a 6,000 majority for the by-election. With the might of its machinery aimed at Hulu Selangor, BN must surely be disappointed that it only managed a 3.05% increase in the number of votes cast in its favour.
What is encouraging is that it did not appear as if the personal attacks against the PKR candidate had a significant effect. As I said earlier, I predicted that the allegations against the PKR candidate would have worked on the Malay voters, but the numbers suggest that even if it worked on some voters, it was minimal and negligible. It is hoped that in the future we will no longer see such campaigns, especially if we have aspirations of becoming a mature democracy.
No doubt, in the days ahead you would read more in-depth analysis of the results of Hulu Selangor. Experts would pour over the numbers in the various polling streams, to try and ascertain the voting patterns according to ethnicity. But for now, what is apparent is that there does not seem to be a significant swing from one side to the other, at least in a constituency like Hulu Selangor. The results of the by-election do not provide a useful indicator as to the eventual victor of the war between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.
Author’s Note: I used the official numbers released by the Elections Commission, as reported by the various media, that the total voter turnout for the day was 48,935. However, I also noticed that if one were to tally the number of votes cast and the spoilt votes (24,997 for BN, 23,272 for PKR and 731 spoilt votes) the number would be 49,000. I have yet to figure out the “missing” 65 votes.