SABAK BERNAM, June 12 — PAS and Amanah are locked in a dumpling war to secure the crucial Chinese vote here, in further signs of the role the community will play in the by-election where Malay support is set to be divided.
Both Islamist parties handed out halal “bak chang (meat dumplings)” while on the campaign trail that coincides with the Zongzi or dumpling festival. Although Sungai Besar is a Malay majority seat, the Chinese community make up nearly one third of the votes.
According to DAP vice president Teresa Kok, the dumplings were handed to residents in Sekinchan, a largely Chinese township in the constituency, so that they will be familiar with Amanah candidate Azhar Abdul Shukur, as his party’s logo is a triangle and similar in shape to the dumplings.
“People normally see our face (DAP leaders) and they associate it with the rocket logo. But, this time we told them to vote for the orange party, which has a logo that resembles the halal bak chang. Undilah parti bak chang,” she told the audience during a ceramah tonight.
The months-old Amanah is struggling for recognition in the by-election, with party communications director Khalid Samad previously revealing that just 8 per cent of voters knew of Amanah at the start of the campaign period.
The notion was not unique, however, and the dumpling tactic was also adopted by PAS, which is seen as the more conservative of the two Islamist parties and the current bogeyman among the Chinese community, owing to its pursuit of hudud.
Candidate Dr Abdul Rani Osman yesterday also gave out halal dumplings during a walkabout in the Sekinchan market, along with other campaign material such as flyers explaining his party’s so-called hudud Bill that was tabled unexpectedly in Parliament last month.
“The flyers are meant to specifically explain what the recent move on strengthening the Shariah system is about, and how it will not affect the position of non-Muslims,” Rani told Malay Mail during the walkabout.
It remains to be seen how effective the tactic will be among the Chinese voters here. Rani’s visit was met with confusion among the older residents at the market, and required the help of Mandarin- and Teochew-speaking volunteers to bridge the language gap.
Chinese support had been vital in helping PAS come within just 399 votes of defeating Barisan Nasional here in Election 2013, but social media researcher Politweet said in its analysis of the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar polls that the community would likely not renew its support for the Islamist party.
The new beneficiary is set to be Amanah, although the PAS splinter party must first overcome its lack of recognition among voters. Unfamiliarity with the party’s logo, a white triangle with stripes on an orange background, has led some to believe that it is an independent party. Others also believe PAS to still be in the opposition pact.
The Sungai Besar by-election on June 18 will see BN’s Sungai Panjang assemblyman Budiman Mohd Zohdi go up against Abdul Rani and Azhar.
The Chinese dumpling festival is celebrated in the fifth month of each lunar year. Legend has it that the festival came about to commemorate a famous and beloved Chinese poet who lived during the War of the Three Kingdoms.