By Adib Zalkapli and Debra Chong
TAIPING, April 7 — In a major boost to the ousted Pakatan Rakyat state government, PAS won the Bukit Gantang by-election with its candidate Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin defeating his closest rival, Barisan Nasional's Ismail Saffian, by 2,789 votes. The former Perak mentri besar, who was ordered to resign by the state Ruler, obtained 21,860 votes while Ismail garnered 19,071 votes. Independent Kamarul Ramizu Idris only managed to secure 62 votes and lost his deposit of RM10,000. A total of 41, 626 voters out of 55,471 or 75.1 per cent cast their ballots.
The by-election was widely seen as a referendum on the newly-formed Perak government led by BN's Datuk Dr Zambry Kadir and today's outcome was the clearest sign yet that the move by the coalition to form the new state government has not gone down well with the people. BN formed the government in February after three PR lawmakers left the alliance to become BN-friendly independents and Nizar's attempt to dissolve the state assembly to pave the way for state-wide election failed.
And with the swearing in of Datuk Seri Najib Razak as the sixth prime minister last Friday, the by-election also became the first test of his leadership and his reform agenda.
Nizar told a press conference after the announcement of the result that his immediate priority would be "to stabilise the political situation in Perak" and to seek the dissolution of the state assembly.
"This is a very strong signal from the people that they reject corruption, but they want democracy and they want a free and fair election," he said, agreeing to suggestions that the outcome of the election was an endorsement of the ousted PR-led government.
He was also confident that the alliance would win with a bigger majority if state elections are called. "Our policies are not discriminatory," he added. Earlier in his speech, Nizar urged party supporters who had gathered outside the polling centre to disperse.- The Malaysia Insider