PH and PN set for showdown over 4 polling centres in Sungai Bakap

Perikatan Nasional previously secured victory in three polling centres, while Pakatan Harapan clinched one, with majorities ranging from 700 to nearly 2,000 votes.

(FMT) – Political analysts foresee a fierce contest in the by-election for the Sungai Bakap state constituency on July 6, with Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) poised for a showdown across four polling centres.

The coalitions are expected to focus on the Padang Lalang, Sungai Duri, Kampung Besar, and Puteri Gunong polling centres.

According to data from the state election last August, PN secured Malay-majority Sungai Duri by 1,940 votes, Padang Lalang by 823 votes, and Kampung Besar by 733 votes.

Meanwhile, PH triumphed in the mixed-demographic Puteri Gunong – the largest polling centre with approximately 2,000 voters.

Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said PN’s success would depend on its ability to consolidate Malay voter support in these polling centres, while PH needs to keep its supporters and win over swing voters to overcome its 1,563-vote deficit from the last state election.

“PN has no choice but to defend these areas as it relies heavily on Malay support, especially given the trend of voters from other communities leaning towards PH, as seen in the recent Kuala Kubu Baharu by-election,” he told FMT.

“Therefore, PH may intensify its efforts in these PN-controlled Malay areas, and I believe collaboration with Umno could potentially secure 15% to 20% of the Malay vote in Sungai Bakap.”

Mazlan also said he expects PN to continue exploiting Malay-Muslim issues, which appeal to voters in Sungai Duri, Padang Lalang and Kampung Besar who lack the advantage of incumbency at both the federal and state levels.

On efforts to narrow PN’s deficit from the previous election, Mazlan said he expects PH to offer a manifesto focusing on rural development initiatives in Sungai Bakap, capitalising on its governance in Penang and at the local level.

However, Ariff Aizuddin Azlan of Universiti Teknologi Mara said that voter turnout and current issues such as the diesel subsidy cuts could influence the results of the by-election.

“I don’t discount PN’s strategy of playing up the Malay narrative, but it can now use a much stronger issue such as diesel prices following the government’s recent announcement (on the targeted subsidies),” he said.

“If this issue is successfully sensationalised, PN stands a chance of securing victory in Sungai Bakap, posing a challenge for PH and Barisan Nasional (BN) to effectively counter such strategies.”

Sungai Bakap is a mixed seat with a 59.4% Malay electorate. Chinese comprise 22.5%, Indians 17.4% and others 0.7%.

The Election Commission has set tomorrow as nomination day. Early voting will be on July 2 and voting day on July 6.

The state seat of Sungai Bakap was vacated following the death of its assemblyman Nor Zamri Latiff from PAS on May 24.

PN will field Nibong Tebal PAS deputy chief Abidin Ismail in the by-election, while PH has named former teacher Joohari Ariffin from PKR as its candidate.

Parti Rakyat Malaysia has also announced that it will contest the Penang state seat, although it has yet to name a candidate.