Tanjung Piai by-election a test of how well accepted Pakatan or BN are

Zainal Epi, MMO

Barring any independent candidate entering the fray in the Tanjung Piai by-election (the Election Commission said 27 nomination forms were taken), the battle will be between Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN).

Tomorrow is nominations for the by-election and polling is fixed for November 16.

PH is fielding Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) Tanjung Piai division chief 66-year-old Karmaine Sardini while BN has MCA’s 55-year old Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng, a household name in the constituency who held the seat from 2008 and 2013 but lost by some 500-odd votes in the May 2018 general election.

Then there is Gerakan which is fielding its deputy secretary-general Wendy Subramaniam, 39, who is not expected to make any impact as the multi-racial Chinese-based party is considered as not relevant given the party is no longer in alliance with Opposition BN or ruling PH which makes it just one of the “mosquito” parties trying to seek attention.

Gerakan in reality has no base in the state and thus its entry is considered as an attempt to promote the existence of the party despite the leaders knowing it will have no chance of winning. It may even lose its deposit.

For defending PH and Opposition BN, the stakes are high; long-term perception and impact of their image.

For Bersatu, the party president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin is “gambling” on his image as a Johor leader as well as a leader of a Malay-based party at national level.

Losing the by-election is proof that he has no influence in Johor or rather has lost influence among the Malays in Johor which in turn reflects on his leadership and charisma.

And losing will affect PH’s image at national level as the ruling coalition lost the last three by-elections ― Cameron Highlands in Pahang, Semenyih in Selangor and Rantau in Negri Sembilan – which may be an indicator that voters are definitely losing trust in them.

As for BN, winning simply means the voters ― particularly the Malays ― believe in its struggle to make a comeback.

It will not be a a walk in the park for Kharmaine given the ruling party’s embattled position for not fulfilling its election manifesto and Bersatu’s lack of influence in the majority Malay constituency.

Malays comprise 57 per cent of the 52,000-odd voters while Chinese comprise 41.4 per cent with the remaining made up of Indian voters.

Kharmaine’s greatest enemy is not BN and its new partner PAS but the near zero existence of an election machinery that can reach out to every voter in the next two weeks to explain PH’s “failure in delivering its manifesto.”

He, or rather Bersatu, has to depend on partners Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and DAP’s election machinery. They are also under pressure to defend the issues faced by the constituents as well as future plans.

In short, Kharmaine is on the defence rather than on the attack which makes the job more difficult given the current level of dissatisfaction among voters towards PH.

Despite Kharmaine being a local and known among locals, the environment is just not suited for him and his party as yet. Observers think the advantage is with Wee, although he is from MCA.

For BN, the Opposition coalition election machinery is well known for its well-oiled organized team who can reach the most remote areas in the constituency.

Added with PAS election machinery which is well-known to exist in every surau and mosque, both the parties seem to have the whole place covered.

Add on Wee’s popularity when he was MP for two terms, tomorrow’s by-election looks much to favour BN.

The Tanjung Piai by-election was called following the death of incumbent Bersatu MP Datuk Dr Md Farid Md Rafik on September 21.

The 42-year-old Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department died at the Pontian Hospital due to complications stemming from a heart attack.

In GE14, Dr Farid defeated Wee by a slim margin of 524 votes where Dr Farid garnered 21,255 votes compared to Wee, who secured 20,731 votes.