A major battle on the cards in Bagan Pinang

(The Malaysian Insider) PORT DICKSON, Sept 24 — The upcoming Oct 11 by-election for Bagan Pinang, a narrow coastal strip in Negri Sembilan with about 14,000 voters, is an acid test for the Barisan Nasional (BN), especially for Umno and the MIC.

With estimates showing nearly 80 per cent of Chinese voters nationwide backing Pakatan Rakyat (PR), how the majority of the Chinese voters here will vote is almost a foregone conclusion.

The battle between challenger PAS and incumbent Umno is for the Malay voters who account for 66 per cent of the electorate, with many of them smallholders, farmers and armed forces personnel, and the 19.9 per cent of voters who are Indians.

The Indian voters, who number 2,834 and are mostly estate and factory workers outside Port Dickson, will be kingmakers if the Malay votes are divided.

But there is as yet no sign of a deep division among Malay voters, especially with the 5,000 postal voters, the majority of whom are expected to vote BN.

In the previous election, about 30 per cent of postal voters backed PR, debunking opposition arguments that postal votes are all marked for BN and stuffed into the ballot boxes by their bosses.

Unlike the other by-elections since March 8, 2008, Umno is defending its stronghold against challenger PAS/PR and therefore the outcome is an acid test for Umno — whether it is able to retain Malay voter support in the numbers it had enjoyed pre-2008.

Although just an hour’s drive from the state capital Seremban, Bagan Pinang is still categorised as rural, Malay and traditionally Umno.

It would be interesting to see whether this assumption is really fact or just a myth.

PR is the underdog in this battle and hoping for an upset victory and if that happens it could mean that Negri Sembilan is a state ripe for a takeover by the federal opposition.

The current distribution of seats in the state legislature is 21 seats for BN and 15 for PR (DAP has 10, PKR four and PAS one).

The ethnic composition of the state is almost like Perak with a high non-Malay percentage, making it possible for a combination of Malay-Chinese-Indian voters working together to overthrow the BN.

(Malays account for 54 per cent of voters in the state with the Chinese having 24 per cent and Indians 15 per cent)

Umno is confident of corralling the majority of the Malay voters in Bagan Pinang, with or without the controversy surrounding the potential candidacy of former Mentri Besar Tan Sri Isa Mohamad Samad.

Isa is a tainted, old warhorse and if Umno fields him, it is a tacit admission the party has no better candidate except for those who have seen better days.

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