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Kuala Kubu Baharu by-election: The challenges for DAP, PH, unity government — Part 1 By Dr Ong Kian Ming

Publish date: Mon, 22 Apr 2024, 10:35 AM

(April 22): The upcoming by-election in Kuala Kubu Baharu (KKB), a semi-urban seat located in the Hulu Selangor district, will provide one of the toughest electoral challenges to DAP, to Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, and to this unity government since the state elections of 2023. The results on May 11, 2024, polling day, will be very close, and if DAP were to retain this seat, it will be very close, by a margin of less than 1,000 votes, compared to the 4,119 winning majority in the 2023 state elections. The political environment does not favour PH at the moment, but with a well-coordinated campaign strategy and messaging, DAP may just pass this test by a small margin.

The KKB state seat was first won by the late Lee Kee Hiong of DAP in the 2013 general election with 52.3% of the vote and a majority of 1,702 votes. With Malay votes swinging in favour of Pakatan Harapan in the 2018 general election and some of the Malay votes going to PAS, DAP’s vote share increased to 57.1% with a majority of 7,134 votes. In the 2022 general election, using the polling stream or saluran results from the parliamentary seat of Hulu Selangor, PH’s vote share was reduced to 48.1% with PAS/PN taking 27.4% of the votes compared to 21.2% for MCA/BN, with a majority of 6,199 in favour of PH. In the 2022 general election, the PAS candidate won the Parliament seat of Hulu Selangor, which was previously held by PKR/PH. In the 2023, without a BN candidate, DAP won 54.4% of the popular vote (and a majority of 4,119). The PAS/PN candidate had gained its vote share to 39.3%. (See results in Table 1 below).

Table 1: Results and ethnic composition of Kuala Kubu Baharu (GE2013, GE2018, GE2022 and PRN 2023)

  GE2013 GE2018 GE2022 PRN2023
DAP/PH 9,469 (52.3%)   14,101 (57.1%)  14,379 (48.1%) 14,862 (54.4%)
MCA/BN 7,767 (42.9%)   6,967 (28.2%)   6,324 (21.2%) -
PAS/PN    - 3,306 (13.4%)  8,180 (27.4%)   10,743 (39.3%)
Spoilt votes 390 (2.2%)  310 (1.3%)   389 (1.3%)   344 (1.3%)
Total votes   18,101 24,684 29,874 27,318
Total voters   21,186 29,131 38,930 40,015
Turnout (%) 85.4  84.7  76.7  67.6
Winning majority 1,702 7,134   6,199   4,119
Ethnic composition 32.7%M, 42.7%C, 20.8%I, 3.8%O 43.9%M, 34.5%C, 18.7%I, 2.9%O 48.1%M, 31.6%C, 18.3%I, 2.0%O 49.3%M, 30.6%C, 17.9%I, 2.1%O

Source: Election Commission

From 2013 to 2023, the percentage of Malay voters in this seat has steadily increased from 32.7% in 2013 to 43.9% in the 2018 general election because of the 2018 delimitation exercise and then to 48.1% because of Undi18 and most recently to 49.3% in the 2023 state elections. In terms of ethnic composition, KKB is now a 50% Malay, 50% non-Malay seat.

There are a number of reasons why DAP faces many uphill challenges in this by-election. It would not be inaccurate to say that many DAP and PH supporters have been disappointed by the performance of the unity government in the slow pace of delivering institutional reform, in the weak economic narrative (even though foreign direct investment numbers and economic growth continue to be healthy) especially with regards to increases in the cost of living and the cost of doing business, and in the public fights between some PH and BN leaders, especially in the recent weeks over the KK Mart “Allah” socks issue. Although I have argued in my podcast that DAP is not in danger of turning into an MCA 2.0 anytime soon1, the general sentiment among non-Malay voters seems to be moving towards this direction.

These factors mean that the turnout among non-Malay voters is likely to reduce noticeably in this by-election, especially since the results won’t affect the stability of the Selangor state government. There is also the possibility that some of the campaigns to ask Indian voters to “boycott” this by-election may gain traction. Some non-Malay voters may even cast their votes in favour of a PN candidate as a protest vote against DAP and the unity government, although this number is likely to be small, at least for this by-election.

Table 2 below shows my own estimates of the Malay, Chinese and Indian turnout, and support for DAP/PH in the 2023 state elections. The estimated Malay and Chinese turnout were similar to the overall turnout at 67% and 68% respectively. The Indian turnout was already lower in the 2023 state elections in KKB at 60%. The estimated Malay support for the DAP/PH was at 22% meaning that a large proportion of the Malay voters who supported the BN candidate in the 2022 general election shifted their support to the PAS/PN candidate in 2023. This is consistent with my own analysis of the results in the 47 state seats which the DAP contested in for the 2023 state elections where four out of five Malay voters who voted for the BN in 2022 shifted their votes to PN in 2023.2

Table 2: Estimated turnout and DAP/PH support among Malay, Chinese and Indian voters in the 2023 state elections

  Estimated turnout (%)    Estimated DAP/PH support (%)
Malay 67 22
Chinese 68 99
Indian 60 80

Source: Own analysis

For this by-election, DAP and its allies will be campaigning on two fronts - to minimise the protest vote and the decrease in turnout among the non-Malay voters. (More on this in Part 2) Table 3 below shows the estimated turnout and overall support for DAP/PH/unity government under three scenarios. Scenario 1 (S1) is the most optimistic outcome for DAP where the reduction in turnout among non-Malay voters is minimised and not significantly different from the Malay turnout and where the overall support does not decrease significantly from 2023. Scenario 2 (S2) is where there is some expected protest votes and noticeable reduction in turnout, especially among non-Malay voters. Scenario 3 (S3) is where there is a significant decrease in non-Malay turnout and decrease in support for the DAP among all voters.

Table 3: Estimated turnout and DAP majority under Scenarios 1, 2, and 3 in the KKB by-election

  Turnout   Support for DAP/PH/unity government
  S1 S2 S3   S1  S2 S3
Malay (%) 60 58 56   20 15 10
Chinese (%) 58 53 48   90 85    80
Indian (%)  50   45 40   80 75 70
Others (%) 60 57 55   80 75 70
Estimated turnout 58% 54% 51% Estimated DAP majority     828     -1,808 -4,164

Source: Own estimates

Notice that under all scenarios, the level of support among non-Malays is still significantly above 50%. But because the Malay vote is likely to remain with or swing even more towards PN, any small drops in the non-Malay turnout and support will have a noticeable effect on the final result.

With an overall turnout of 58%, a Malay support of 20%, a Chinese support of 90%, an Indian support of 80%, DAP will be able to win this seat with an estimated majority of less than 1,000 votes. But if the turnout of Chinese voters drops further to just above 50% and the turnout of Indian voters drops to 45%, and Malay support drops to just 15% with Chinese support at 85% and Indian support at 75% (Scenario 2), DAP will lose this seat by almost 2,000 votes. In the worst-case scenario where the turnout of Chinese and Indian voters drops to below 50% and Chinese and Indian support drops to 80% and 70% respectively, DAP may end up losing this seat with more than 4,000 votes. The last scenario is not likely but not impossible depending on the effectiveness of the campaign by DAP/PH/unity government and also on the part of PN.

I will discuss the contours of the campaign in Part 2 of this article.


Dr Ong Kian Ming is DAP Selangor treasurer.

Be the first to like this. Showing 10 of 10 comments


i hope DAP lose badly so that Pmx open eyes that he cannot take non-malay voters for granted!
we rakyat remember the KK Mart socks issue and Verns shoe issue

1 month ago


Chinese sure support DAP(99%) logic?

1 month ago


then i hope DAP supporters will take this opportunity to sabo KKB make DAP lose badly in KKB
then Pmx will open eyes and hopefully fix his mistakes before GE16!

1 month ago


only if DAP kalah teruk in KKB, will Pmx learn that he cannot take non-malay voters for granted
now Pmx think all non-malays sokong him even as he neglect non-malay voters in his persuit for malay voters as in KK mart & vern shoe issue

1 month ago


The NMs should avoid or send protest votes to PMX that he has taken them for granted. He will never get the full M votes, in which thereafter he will ignor the D and G parties. If the "house arrest" becomes a reality, it will the beginning of the end of his tenure as one would expect Umno to then call the shots and ignor him.

1 month ago


D party turning to no different whoever wins or lose...the rakyat still suffers regardless...

1 month ago


We vote PMX give him mandate.. give him ticket out of jail. and he treated us like shit. give all the helps to please those parties who won't vote him. I predict he will lose again badly next election. DAP will be badly affected.

1 month ago

Jonathan Keung

Voters turn out in any by elections tends to be on a low side vs in a country GE or State elections. This KKB tends to be favour the opposition if they played their cards ride. PH have time the by election in a worst scenario. Cost of livings is trending higher, talk of redirecting the fuel subsidies doesn't work in their favour. JHDN introduction of E invoicingplus the increase in the SST rate from 6% to 8% doesn't help either. Come May we may have the high value goods tax which doesn't sit exactly well with the business owners. Losing the KKB is a strong possibilities with all the odds against PH candidate

1 month ago


PMX and UMNO will be chuckling if DAP loses. IT will be an excuse for them to put a Malay candidate in the next GE. Ever since the swine face took over DAP, party has been behaving like a lapdog and miles away from their promises.

1 month ago


without najis as punching bag, can still win, pakatun? all parties kanasai...

1 month ago

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