Chinese poised to be kingmaker in Melaka election

Khaw said the Chinese could be the kingmaker in mixed seats where the Malay vote is split between Perikatan Nasional, Umno and Pakatan.

By Joceline Tan, The Star

FORMER Melaka DAP strongman Sim Tong Him finds himself having two to three rounds of morning coffee in the kopitiam these days.

The locals are keen to hear his views on the messy politics in Melaka and the impending state election.

Sim is finished with politics after an epic fallout with the top DAP leadership in 2017 but his opinions are still respected.

“I’m not sure of the Malay sentiment, but the Chinese are disappointed. Many of them are not sure if they will bother to vote. We gave them the power and this is what we get,” said Sim.

It is still early days for the Melaka election which is set for Nov 20 but the signs are that the turnout will be far below the 85% turnout rate of the 2018 general election.

Both incumbent and challenger are entering the election equally damaged.

What are they going to campaign on? What promises can they make for people to come out or for outstation voters to return to vote? Will voters buy their sweet promises again?

“Jiu wu pa” or “95%” was a popular Chinese social media catchphrase after the 2018 general election. It referred to the claim that 95% of Chinese voted for Pakatan Harapan and it was their way of patting themselves on the back for changing the government.

But the phrase has acquired a cynical tone these days to imply that 95% of Chinese were duped into putting all their eggs in one basket, and Pakatan especially has lost so much moral high ground.

Umno is to blame for an unnecessary election but Pakatan had abetted the fall of the state government.

Pakatan leaders have been doing damage control by rejecting the four assemblymen who triggered the collapse of the government.

That is quite hypocritical of them. Had Governor Tun Mohd Ali Rustam allowed Pakatan to set up a new government, Pakatan leaders would have happily embraced the assemblymen and rewarded them with state exco seats or even the chief minister post.

The market value of the four assemblymen have plunged and it looks like they are on their own.

It has been a humbling experience for former mentri besar Datuk Seri Idris Haron, the mastermind behind the coup d’etat.

He took a huge risk but failed and he is now Umno’s public enemy No 1.

When he spoke at a PKR gathering in a Melaka hotel a few nights ago, he portrayed himself and Adly Zahari who was Pakatan’s mentri besar, as “CM 10 and CM 11” who can combine their experience to take the state into the 21st century.

He still has hopes for the top job but he ought to be aware of a dark horse in PKR.

State PKR chief and Hang Tuah Jaya MP Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar is being slated for a state seat, he is a lawyer and is eminently qualified for the chief minister job.

“Melaka is a mini-Malaysia in terms of racial composition and this a curtain raiser to the general election especially in terms of political alignments,” said KRA strategy director Amir Fareed Rahim.

The Melaka polls will not only be a test case of running an election in a pandemic but also provide a glimpse into how voter sentiments have shifted.

Despite the political ripples, political analyst Khaw Veon Szu said the Chinese vote is still likely to go to Pakatan.

“There won’t be another ‘jiu wu pa’ but it is likely that up to 80% of Chinese votes will go to DAP and Pakatan,” said Khaw.

Khaw said the Chinese could be the kingmaker in mixed seats where the Malay vote is split between Perikatan Nasional, Umno and Pakatan.

But their kingmaker role will only succeed if there is a good Chinese voter turnout.

DAP will need to get its Chinese base to come out in great numbers on polling day.

The situation on the Malay ground is terribly messy.

Malay unity will remain an elusive dream as Umno slugs it out with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and PAS.

Politics has become stranger than fiction because these people are partners in Putrajaya but enemies in Melaka.

It must be music to the ears of Pakatan leaders that Perikatan is planning to contest all 28 state seats, making it a three-way fight down the line.

However, news that Datuk Seri Najib Razak is to play a key role in the Umno campaign has given hope to PAS leaders of a peace deal in order to avoid clashes between the Malay parties.

Najib was personally persuaded to come on board by Melaka Umno chief Datuk Seri Rauf Yusoh.

But deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Hasan will be in charge of the campaign. Both Najib and Mohamed will provide the anchor and direction needed by the state Umno set-up.

The two men also have the X-factor to reach out to the non-Malay voters.

“It is all the more important to court the non-Malays given the split in Malay votes,” said Amir.

The stumbling block to Umno-PAS ties is actually PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

Hadi’s blind loyalty to Bersatu has irked his own party members who think that Bersatu only wants to use PAS members to put up flags, to campaign and organise ceramah.

However, the window for negotiation is still open for Malay party leaders to swallow their pride and compromise if they want to win.

“Melaka’s tourism industry has been hard-hit. Economic recovery is crucial and the elections will be defined by who offers a better proposal for economy and political stability,” said Amir.

“And given the bad track record of politicians jumping back and forth, the quality of assemblymen will also be an important factor,” he added.