SIBU, May 16 —The DAP pulled off a surprise win in the Sibu by-election today, defeating Barisan Nasional’s (BN) SUPP by 398 votes in a hard fought race.
DAP’s Wong Ho Leng polled 18,845 votes compared to BN candidate Robert Lau’s 18,447 votes.
The margin of victory was just a little more than the 395 spoilt votes. The independent candidate garnered 232 votes.
“Thank you Sibu. Thank you Malaysia. One small step in winning Sibu, one giant step to winning Putrajaya, “ Wong said after he was declared the winner.
BN had earlier been expected to retain its Sarawak stronghold but lost despite the best efforts of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The Sibu vote is seen as a bellwether for the Sarawak state elections which must be called by next year.
Asked by reporters today what he thought today’s result would mean for impending state polls, Wong said “Sarawak is ready for change.”
DAP is the biggest opposition party in Sarawak and is expected to put up a serious challenge in the next state polls.
Today’s result is also significant in that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has snapped a streak of successive defeats to BN in recent by-elections.
The count now is 8-3 in favour of PR in terms of wins in by-elections held since Election 2008.
Today’s result is also a setback for Najib who had personally campaigned for BN and had placed his own reputation on the line.
Najib has been counting on Sabah and Sarawak as BN’s fixed deposit, but today’s result shows a major swing from 2008 when BN won the seat by more than 3,000 votes.
Today’s result also raises two thorny issues — how to deal with the Tan Sri Taib Mahmud factor and whether to push for state polls which sources say had been slated for October this year.
Taib, who has been at the helm for more than two decades now, was absent from most of the Sibu campaign because BN had anticipated DAP attacks against his leadership.
The white-haired chief minister known as “pek moh” among Chinese voters has been heavily criticised for alleged abuse of power.
He has to call state elections by next year and Najib and BN had been hoping a resounding win would provide the ruling coalition the momentum needed to go into the next general elections.
The victorious Wong called his win tonight a miracle.
“It is a miracle we have created together. For those who did not vote for me I now want to be your friend,” he said.