Malaysia's opposition, Pakatan Rakyat, won two of three by-elections held this week. This comes just days after UMNO has ushered in a new party leader and Prime Minister in Najib Razak, the former DPM, who has pledged to carry out wide-ranging government and social reforms.
The results on 6 April do not change the balance of power at the federal or state level. But some interpret the results to show that the opposition continue to gain ground against the Barisan Nasional (BN), a multi party coalition of mainly racial parties that has ruled Malaysia since independence.
In the by-elections for the Bukit Gantang in Perak, the state’s former Perak Mentri Besar and Pas candidate Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin won. This retains the seat for the opposition in a state that has been through constitutional controversies after the Sultan recognized the BN to have support to form the government.
In Bukit Selambau in the state of Kedah, an opposition candidate from the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) won in an area that has a large Indian Malaysian community. The PKR defeated the candidate from the MIC, the Indian based component of the BN.
Only in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, did BN retain its seat in the Batang Ai state constituency seat.
Sources: Bernama News Agency, Voters Unaware Of BN's Benefits: Taib, 8 April 2009, http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/v5/newspolitic.php?id=402769, Sun2Surf, 8 April 2009, Pakatan Rakyat win in Bukit Gantang a strong signal to BN, http://www.thesundaily.com/article.cfm?id=32001