Anwar’s victory or Umno’s defeat?

Some would say that there is no difference. What matters is that Anwar Ibrahim won the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat with a resounding majority. And since elections are a zero sum gam, the Umno candidate lost the seat with an abysmal minority of votes. Either way you slice it Anwar wins.

Not true. If Anwar won the seat because the electorate supported his policies and his leadership, then he has a legitimate claim to being the rightful future Prime Minister of Malaysia. The victory would be an endorsement of the man and his politics.

However, if Anwar won because the voters hated the Umno leadership so much that they wanted to punish them with a humiliating defeat then Anwar’s victory has to be looked at in a different light because what the by-election means is that merely the electorate does not want Umno, or at least the Umno led by Badawi and Najib, to govern them. But just as not wanting one thing does not necessarily translate into wanting its opposite, the electorate’s rejection of Umno cannot then be interpreted to mean an endorsement of Anwar’s leadership and policies.

So which is it?

Answering this one question may change the game for Anwar’s bid for the country leadership.