The By-Election in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia: Testing Political Party Support
The Cameron Highland’s by-election held in January 2019 was
keenly contested by two major political coalitions in a district in Pahang. It
was an election with a difference. The ruling coalition at the national level was
the underdog contesting in a state controlled by BN/UMNO, the opposition
which, in turn, has been in shambles since GE 14, with only three of 13 parties
remaining in the coalition. The by-election created history by electing an Orang
Asli (aboriginal people) as a member of parliament. The ruling coalition lost
the by-election which was attributed to the use of race and religion by the
opposition BN/UMNO in alliance with a party promoting race and religion.
The candidate of the ruling coalition won the Chinese and some Indian votes.
Based upon ethnographic fieldwork, targeted interviews, and documentary
materials, this study analyses the Cameron Highland’s by-election by focusing
upon several factors including the nature of the constituency, the party system,
and the candidates campaigning highlighting the local and national issues. The
study found that racial issues did play a strategic role in the outcome of the byelection.
The ruling coalition needs to manage the economy and address the
issues faced by Malaysia’s myriad ethnic communities.