|Polling ends, counting to start soon|
Polling for the Permatang Pasir by-election closed at 5pm today. The final voter turnout stood at 73.1 percent, or translating to about 14,832 out of 20,290 total voters coming out to vote.
The Election Commission had predicted a 80 percent voter turnout. In the March 2008 general election, the turnout was 83 percent (16,803 voters).
The counting process will start soon at all eight polling stations. They will then be tallied at the vote-tallying centre at the National Youth Skills Institute (IKBN) in Bukit Mertajam before the official results are announced. Results are expected at about 8pm.
Earlier today, the Permatang Pasir voters started voting at 8am to elect a new state assemblyperson for their constituency.
In all eight polling stations 39 streams were available for voters to cast their ballots.
The eight polling stations are SJKC Lay Keow Permatang Pauh, SMK Sama Gagah, SK Permatang Pauh, SK Permatang Pasir, SK Bukit Indra Muda, SJKC Kubang Semang, SK Seri Penanti and Sek Rendah Islam Al-Masriyah.
The by-election was called following the death of incumbent PAS representative Mohd Hamdan Abdul Rahman, 63, on May 31.
It saw Barisan Nasional’s Rohaizat Othman, 38, taking on PAS’ Mohd Salleh Man, 55. However both the candidates did not vote today as they were not registered voters of Permatang Pasir.
Anwar confident of win
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his wife Dr Wan Azizah Ismail are however among the voters in this constituency and they were among the earliest to cast their votes.
Anwar, Wan Azizah and Mohd Salleh arrived at the SK Seri Penanti polling station at about 8.20am to vote.
Speaking to reporters after voting, Anwar said he was confident of a satisfying majority for Mohd Salleh.
“I am happy with our machinery. They have been working hard. I am confident Salleh will win with a satisfying majority,” he said.
He also said that Pakatan Rakyat party workers have been informed to keep a lookout for phantom voters.
“We are aware of Umno strategy but we have party workers to monitor vehicles and buses ferrying phantom voters.
“Umno is using propaganda as if we are bringing in phantom voters. Their machinery is like international circus facility,” said the Permatang Pauh member of parliament. Permatang Pasir is a state seat under his constituency.
Good start for new EC regulation
This by-election is also the first time the Election Commission has gone strict in disallowing pondok panas (canvassing booths) and last-minute canvassing by political parties.
EC chief Abdul Aziz Yusof who made his first visit of the day at SJKC Lay Keow Permatang Pauh said he was satisfied with the situation so far.
He hoped that political parties can adapt to the new culture of no canvassing on polling day and the pondok panas ruling.
Commenting on the EC’s new regulations, Anwar said he was happy that the commission had laid down the rules firmly but added that there was room for improvement.
He also said that the EC could have allowed party workers to help voters check their polling centres. Under the new regulation, only the EC is allowed to do so at it booths outside the voting centres.
Meanwhile the police are standing guard at all polling stations to ensure that parties do not breach the new EC regulations. At certain centres the police are not allowing the supporters to gather.
The weather meanwhile is cloudy with a slight shower expected in certain areas. A downfall is also expected later in the day.
The voters have been coming steadily to cast their ballots, especially the Malay voters who were up early due to the fasting period.
Workers on the way to the Penang island too were seen voting before heading off to work. The traffic around Permatang Pasir has been generally smooth.
Muhyiddin visits voters
Meanwhile Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and some other BN leaders visited the SMK Sama Gagah voting centre at about 9.15am.
There they met and greeted their supporters numbering about 100.
Muhyiddin spoke to voters, especially some senior citizens who had come out early to vote. He and his entourage of BN leaders also visited the EC booth before moving on to the BN operations centre in Sama Gagah. He then left the place at about 9.30am.
The BN supporters chanted ‘Hidup BN’, ‘Hidup Melayu’ during Muhyiddin’s short visit.
Among the leaders with him were Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Permatang Pauh Umno division head Jalil Abdul Majid.
At about the same time, over at the Seri Penanti polling centre some 200 supporters from both BN and Pakatan were targeting each other with jeers and mocks.
The PAS crowd shouted ‘Umno pengkhianat’ (Umno traitors) while the rebuttal from the other side was ‘Hidup, Hidup BN’ (Long live BN). A police Light Strike Force unit is on standby to disperse the crowd.
However, upon a request from the police, the crowd dispersed. The BN crowd – mostly mat motors – immediately left the place on their motorcycles but the PAS crowd retreated by about 200 metres to regroup.
And over at the Kubang Semang voting station, the atmosphere was also hot with supporters from both sides teasing each other.
The same situation was also prevalent at the SJKC Lay Keow where about 30 Umno Youth members were asked to stay away by the PAS supporters.
DAP leader Lim Kit Siang also visited the centre this morning and explained that the by-election was a referendum on Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
Candidates meet at polling centre
The candidates – Rohaizat and Mohd Salleh – meanwhile bumped into each other at the SMK Sama Gagah polling centre at about 10am while making their rounds.
They greeted each other warmly and were seen exchanging pleasantries.
Rohaizat, speaking to reporters later, said the voting process was proceeding smoothly and he was happy with the process so far.
He also urged voters to come out early to vote as it could rain later in the day.
Wearing a red Baju Melayu with a songkok, Rohaizat also urged party workers to maintain discipline throughout the day and work hard to ensure a win.
EC chief: So far so good
At about 11.30am, EC chief Abdul Aziz said he was satisfied with the turnout so far and with the general polling process.
He hoped that the EC target of 80 percent turnout can be achieved by the end of the voting period.
“I also hope there is no rain today. So far we have also not heard of any complaints of phantom voters,” he said.
There was a slight drizzle in the morning but the weather has cleared up since.
By noon, the voter turnout had risen to 47.2 percent, or 9,573 voters. An hour later, the figure was 10,812 voters, or 53.3 percent.
At 2pm, the turnout has climbed to 59 percent with three hours to go and at 3pm it hit 65 percent, or 13, 172 voters.
In another development, election watchdog Mafrel reported that it found one BN pondok panas near SK Permatang Pasir polling centre.
“But it was immediately asked to be shut down by the EC,” said Mafrel coordinator Mohd Zaki Abdul Ahmid.