THE recent Teluk Intan by-election, which saw Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Datuk Mah Siew Keong triumph after losing twice in two national polls in 2008 and 2013, may not be a game changer in the political arena after all.
The victory of BN’s component party Gerakan in the by-election does not translate into party credentials being less important when it comes to electing a candidate.
The trend of voting for candidates based on the party they represent became prevalent after the political tsunami in 2008. This pattern, experts say, will remain.
“I don’t think the trend will change as what happened in Teluk Intan, first and foremost, was driven by local conditions and local sentiments.
“What happened in Teluk Intan was that there was a low turnout of voters, both the outstation ones and the young electorate,” Ibrahim Suffian, chief of independent pollster  Merdeka Centre told The Rakyat Post.
“The candidate’s party affiliation still remains a key point in attracting voters,” he stresses.
Ibrahim says that the electorate was also not too keen in by-elections when compared to general elections.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) political analyst Dr P. Sivamurugan also shares Ibrahim’s sentiment, saying that a party plays the key role in securing votes.
“Look at Dyana (DAP’s candidate for Teluk Intan, Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud), for example.
“Despite being a political greenhorn, she was leading the game, ahead of BN candidate Datuk Mah Siew Keong, who has several years experience and is a better politician.
“It is her party’s credentials which helped her, and not because she was good,” Sivamurugan said.
He also points out the neck and neck battle for the parliamentary seat and the tiny margin of 238 votes by which Dyana Sofya lost.
“There was not much of a difference. This is all due to the party’s image itself,” he said, adding that the candidates, on the other hand, complimented the party’s package.
Serdang Member of Parliament Dr Ong Kian Ming also stresses that a majority of the voters would vote for the party although there are some who would opt for the candidate instead.
He states that between 10% and 30% would vote for the candidate, while over 50% would vote for the party.
“This is insofar as Malaysia; the branding of the parties is very strong.
“The identity of the party precedes that of the individual themselves.”