Pejuang’s Amir Khusyairi trailing behind BN’s Mohd Zaidi in Slim by-election’s two-horse race

Zainal Epi, Malay Mail Online

Campaigning for the Slim by-election enters its second week tomorrow with only two candidates — Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Mohd Zaidi Aziz and Parti Pejuang Tanah Air’s (Pejuang) Amir Khusyairi Mohamad Tanusi (under an Independent flag) — making a push for the finish line on August 29.

Third candidate S. Santharasekaran is considered a minor player at best after failing to make an impression since official campaigning began.

Without a party and background in the country’s political mainstream, the Independent also has no political ideology and philosophy upon which Slim’s 23,000-odd voters can base their support if they wanted to.

In fact, Santharasekaran appears yet to make the rounds in a constituency comprising 13.08 per cent Indians compared to 10.37 per cent Chinese.

On the other hand, BN and Pejuang candidates have over the past week introduced themselves to voters — arguably an easier task for Mohd Zaidi because he is a familiar face as the deputy Umno division chief in Tanjong Malim.

The BN and PAS machinery also have a strong presence in the large Felda schemes of Trolak and Besout.

In contrast, Amir Khusyairi faces an uphill battle as he grapples with a whole host of challenges.

For starters, the Slim state constituency is Malay heartland, and such an Umno and PAS stronghold that even new Malay parties are not welcomed.

He is also seen as an outsider because he lives in Tanjung Malim, which is about 25km from Slim River town.

Crucially, Amir Khusyairi is not backed by credible election machinery, nor can he depend on his Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) network because the student alumnus does not engage in politics.

Even if it did, Mohd Zaidi would likely be its candidate of choice because as an activist, he led many student associations during his time in the varsity, to the extent of mentoring Amir Khusyairi who was his junior.

So with one week to go before polling, what cards do Amir Khusyairi have left to play?

He recently added former Bersatu leader Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman to his campaign entourage.

But Syed Saddiq’s presence is probably more of a morale booster rather than a valuable addition to the campaign since the former minister is not even listed as a member of Pejuang.

It is likely Amir Khusyairi is hoping that Pejuang chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will make an appearance as this might work in his favour if the former prime minister is still accepted by Malay voters.

If this happens, this would be the last roll of the dice for Amir Khusyairi; otherwise, he faces the prospect of his hard work on the campaign trail going to waste.