The Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) contested the Semenyih by-election in the state seat of Selangor on March 2. Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Zakaria Hanafi defeated Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate Muhammad Aiman Zainali. Green Left Weekly’s Alex Salmon spoke to PSM’s campaign media coordinator Nalini Elumalai about the campaign and result.
What is PSM’s assessment of this result and its wider implication for Malaysian politics?
PSM accepts the fact that we have lost. Though painful, the outcome reflects the state of the country’s political situation, where voters are still not ready to accept third force representation as an alternative.
This outcome is also a strong signal that the combination of UMNO (United Malay National Organisation) and PAS (Islamic Party of Malaysia) — which is based on fanning racial sentiments — will lead Malaysia towards more harmful race-based politics, which we have fought so hard to mitigate.
From the preliminary analysis, the Chinese majority areas voted for PH while the Malay majority and mixed areas voted for BN.
This by-election also served as a referendum. People are tired of the various policy and election pledge U-turns that PH has been making. In fact, PSM asserts that PH is merely BN 2.0. If this trend continues, then the changes brought by the people on May 9, 2018 will be pointless.
How did PSM candidate Nik Aziz Afiq fare in this election? What factors do you think affected PSM’s result?
We are proud that PSM ran a good, clean and fair campaign. The media have repeatedly credited Nik Aziz as being the best candidate amongst the four that contested. The BERSIH coalition [Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections] has also commended PSM for conducting a clean campaign.
Apart from featuring a good and credible youth activist as a candidate, PSM also presented some of our ideas and initiatives to the people of Semenyih.
Although PSM did not win, we are encouraged that the percentage of total votes garnered by PSM [was] 2.1% in the by-election compared with 2.2% in the general election in 2018.
How did people respond to the PSM’s policies and manifesto?
Generally, PSM’s manifesto was well received. Many people we interacted with during the campaign agreed with and welcomed the policies PSM put forward.
As I mentioned, this by-election was more of a referendum on PH, therefore, people were voting accordingly.
Will PSM continue to have a presence in the Semenyih area after this election?
Yes, PSM will continue to serve the people in Semenyih as we have done over the past 10 years. Our service centre has been continuously helping the people of Semenyih.
Although we lost this time, this does not affect our intention and purpose to form a fair and equitable state for the 99% of the people. We will continue to build a progressive third force.
The PH government was elected last May. What is PSM's assessment of the political situation now?
After the initial euphoria and shock at the regime change, there is now a palpable frustration among the masses. After winning power, PH has gone back on its own election manifesto and expressly broken some of its own pledges.
This reinforces PSM’s view that a service-oriented, people-centric politics is the best way for Malaysia. It is clear that PH, like the former ruling party BN, is pro-business and it continues to implement neoliberal economic policies.
Looking forward, what does PSM hope to achieve in building a left wing alternative in Malaysian politics?
Regardless of the outcome, PSM is glad to have a platform to expose our ideology and views. We hope that people will see the different brand of politics the left has to offer and realise why our policies will resolve their issues over the long term.
We will continue our discourse and build our membership as more [people] will join us, when they witness our relevance. We are observing that socialist ideas are gaining traction in Malaysia and all over the world.