Can PKR retain high majority in Kajang by-election?


(Bernama) – Both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) have been working hard to improve their vote count in tomorrow’s Kajang state seat by-election.

And speaking of winning votes, both parties right from the start have been locked in a psychological war.

While BN being the underdog wants to make sure that at least it will be able to reduce PKR’s majority, on the other hand PKR wants to make sure BN’s candidate even loses the deposit.

However, BN represented by MCA’s vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun is confident that the party could deny PKR President Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail a bigger majority.

BN’s anticipation is based on the fact that voter turnout for by-elections are much lower than during general elections, thus lower turnout of voters at least in theory could dent PKR’s majority.

In the last 13th general election, the voter turnout for the constituency with 39,728 voters was 87.9%. The PKR’s Lee Chin Cheh who garnered 19,571 votes won with a 6,824 majority. On the other hand, BN’s candidate Lee Ban Seng received 12,747 votes while Mohamad Ismail (Berjasa) 1,014 votes. Three independents who contested the same seat received less than 250 votes each.

Not much changes in voting pattern

Senior Fellow at Singapore’s Institute of South East Asia Studies (ISEAS) Dr Oh Ei Sun said the lower turnout would be an advantage for BN in theory but this is unlikely to happen.

“Chinese voters’ support for BN and PKR will most likely remain the same like during GE13. However, the repeated calls for Malay unity and on the other hand sympathies for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim are the crucial factors that could sway the votes,” he said.

Anwar was initially slated to contest the Kajang state seat but he was stopped on his tracks on March 8 when the Court of Appeal found him guilty of sodomy and handed him a five-year jail sentence.

“How these two factors weigh in the Malay voters will be interesting to watch. There are also those who had enough of Anwar’s annoying antics. Even some within the ranks of Pakatan feel the same. How much this will affect the voting pattern remains to be seen.

Oh also said while Chew has an “acceptable image”, the voters in this semi-urban constituency were likely to cast their ballot along the party lines. This, he said, has created an uphill battle for MCA and BN.

“It will be a significant achievement for MCA and BN if they can reduce PKR’s previous majority at least by a little bit. The reality on the ground is that nobody is talking about MCA winning,” he added.

The constituency has 39,278 registered voters with 48% Malay voters, 40% Chinese, 10% Indian and 2% Others.

Need for strong opposition in Selangor

While MCA concurred that a lower turnout would be good for BN, the lower majority for PKR could only be achieved if BN was able to convince voters on the need for a strong opposition in Pakatan Rakyat-controlled Selangor.

“There is a lack of interest among the constituents. Moreover with diminishing euphoria of a new menteri besar as Anwar is no longer in the picture, the constituents are likely to be less enthusiastic to vote as compared with the last general election.

“That’s how MCA can convince them on the importance of the voice of the minority. We can’t be naive to think that race and religion is not an issue,” said MCA strategist and Central Committee member Datuk Ti Lian Ker.

In GE13, the Chinese support for BN in the constituency was only about 18% with more than 80% of the Chinese voters concentrated at Sungai Chua area that has been divided into five polling district.

The other Chinese voter majority area is Kajang town.

“As far as this election is concerned, it is not about winning or losing the by-election, because it is not going to have any major impact on the government of the day. What is more important for MCA is to continue to play our role in articulating issues concerning the people,” added Ti.

An MCA local grassroots leader explained, on paper it would not be difficult to reduce PKR’s majority (6,824 votes) as MCA has about 4,000 members in the constituency.

“Moreover, to date, we managed to trace about 2,000 of them, which is only half of the number. If all 2,000 really come out and vote for our candidate, then the chances for reducing PKR’s majority are very good,” said the grassroots leader who did not want to be identified.

Maintaining the 80% turnout key to high majority

DAP strategist and Serdang Member of Parliament Dr Ong Kian Ming explained they need at least 80% turnout to record a good majority. In fact, he believed PKR’s majority would increase because of the recent court of appeal decision on Anwar’s sodomy trail.

“No specific target but for BN to lose their deposit is also unlikely. For BN to lose deposit, the vote count should be less than 5,000 but in the last election, with six-cornered contest, BN still managed to garner about 12,000 votes,” he said.

“In the last election, we received about 35% Malay support, 82% Chinese support and 60% Indian support. We are hoping that by fielding Dr Wan Azizah, we have a good chance to increase the Malay votes to at least 50%,” he said.

However, PKR’s vice-president Tian Chua is worried on the possibility of a lower turnout, especially looking at the fact the polling date is two weeks before the Ching Ming festival and many Chinese were scheduled to come back a week before the festival. This means they may forgo the polling.

Ching Ming is Chinese festival to remember the dead, where the Chinese visit and clean grave sites of the deceased. The festival falls on Saturday, April 5, 2014, but most of the tomb visiting is done a week before that.

And speaking of majority, for Tian Chua it is a conceptual thing.

“Whatever the outcome, the most important thing for the party is to win this by-election. A win is still a win,” he said.