Fence-sitters hold the key

"Ada banyak orang pun tak suka PAS, tapi pasal Terengganu, dia kira undi atas calon, siapa calon yang baik, yang biasa pergi minum kopi sama orang kampung … Siapa dia ni Wan Farid? Semua orang tak suka … you kena cari orang yang laku, orang yang tak berpolitik wang, tapi boleh berpolitik budi bahasa."

By Danny Lim, The Nut Graph

WITH the Chinese Malaysian voters — considered the decisive votes in the Kuala Terengganu by-election — appearing to lean towards PAS, attention is now shifting to the Malay Malaysian votes.

The Chinese Malaysian community's enthusiastic support for Pakatan Rakyat-organised ceramah, and the increasingly threatening tenor of the Barisan Nasional (BN) campaign in this by-election, lend currency to the perception that the ruling party is losing ground here.

Now, with polling day just around the corner on 17 Jan, another long-held belief — that the Malay Malaysian vote is split 50-50 split between the BN and PAS — may no longer hold water.

Political analyst Dr Aisar Yee Abdullah, writing in her column in Sinar Harian on 11 Jan, warned that the BN's strategy of enticing the Chinese Malaysian vote risked tipping this 50-50 balance towards PAS.

She said the Chinese Malaysian voters have been courted with development funds and federal allocations at a rate far outstripping those in Malay Malaysian-dominated areas.

This risks alienating the kampung folk who are sensitive to BN candidate Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh's personality issues and unconvinced by the BN's Mesra Rakyat charm offensive. Wan Ahmad Farid is facing PAS's Abdul Wahid Endut and independent candidate Azharudin Mamat @ Adam.

With the big issues in this by-election gaining little traction among Malay Malaysian voters, it would seem that many analysts are spot-on in zeroing in on the candidate's character as a deciding factor. But that may not be the only thing that influences fence-sitters. And if their numbers are big enough, they may make the Chinese Malaysian vote irrelevant.