Thursday, 27 August 2009

Arithmetic 101

It's time for a short lesson in arithmetic. Nothing sophisticated. A simple eight-digit electronic calculator with the basic functions will be good enough. Quick: what is 11004 divided by 16803, and what is 9618 divided by 14832? It looks to me that our top politicians in Putrajaya had flunked badly in their arithmetic while in school, going by the way they interpreted the results of the Permatang Pasir by-elections. Let me elaborate.

During the General Elections in 2008, the key voting details for the Permatang Pasir state constituency in Penang were:
PAS candidate: 11,004 votes (65.5 percent)
UMNO candidate: 5,571 votes (33.2 percent)
Majority: 5,433 votes
Total turnout: 16803 voters
Total registered voters: 20,350
Percentage voted: 82.6 percent
In the recent Permatang Pasir by-election, the equivalent key voting details were:
PAS candidate: 9,618 votes (64.8 percent)
UMNO candidate: 5,067 votes (34.2 percent)
Majority: 4,551 votes
Total turnout: 14,832 voters
Total registered voters: 20,350
Percentage voted: 72.9 percent
In 2008, PAS routed UMNO by 65.5 percent with a turnout of 16,803 voters. One year later in 2009, PAS still routed UMNO by 64.8 percent with a reduced voter turnout of 14,832, most probably because some outstation voters could not return to cast their votes. However, any competent school child would be able to make the above calculations too. In my opinion, there was little change in the voting pattern. PAS still retained a huge advantage over UMNO. A wide chasm, in fact. The difference, percentage-wise, was very small and may be considered as statistically insignificant.

So what was Najib Abdul Razak trying to prove when he said that "in terms of majority votes, we have reduced it"? I felt so incredulous when I read it. More likely, he has nothing else to say because I want to know whether he actually believed when he said. Was his arithmetic really that bad? If it was, then he has no business to continue heading the country's Finance Ministry.

How could Najib say that his party had effectively reduced the majority margin? It's incomprehensible. Of course, the absolute number (the majority margin) would go down because there were less voters this time. It works both ways. If there had been more voters in the by-election, the majority margin would have increased correspondingly. It's only logical but then, I've already accepted that UMNO's mind is illogical. Is this the moral victory that they were eyeing and now crowing? Only an uneducated simpleton would believe him. Stupid fella.

No wonder that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had so derisively dismissed this flawed thinking at a press conference yesterday. Here's the excerpt from The Star:

... Lim refuted claims by certain Umno leaders that the majority of votes had been reduced by 900 votes. He said Mohd Salleh still managed to obtain 65% of votes, a similar percentage obtained by the late Datuk Mohd Hamdan Abdul Rahman in the 2008 general election based on voters’ turnout.

“The voters’ turnout this time was only 73.1%, which was lower than the 82.57% last year. But still, Mohd Salleh managed to receive 65% of the votes or 9,618 based on the voters’ turnout. To say that the majority was reduced was actually an act of deceiving oneself or the Barisan people were still living in a state of denial and refused to accept the defeat in a graceful manner. Even year six students can do the calculation,” he said.

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