KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — The Sungai Kandis by-election will test public sentiment towards the two-month-old Pakatan Harapan (PH) government and Umno’s new alliance with PAS, analysts said.
Political analysts were of the view that a possible lower voter turnout and the straight fight between PH and Barisan Nasional (BN), as opposed to the multi-cornered fight in the 14th general election that had included PAS, would play a significant role in the first by-election after the May 9 poll.
Geopolitical expert Prof Madya Dr Azmi Hassan believed PKR will win since it previously won the Selangor state seat in the 14th general election, but the party’s margin of votes will be telling.
“The winning majority will be interesting as it will translate the people’s acceptance of the PH government so far and the acceptance of the newly found politically courtship between Umno and PAS,” he told Malay Mail.
“However, PKR would be able to retain the seat whatever the voter turnout will be since the majority won by them in GE14 was big.”
The late Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei from PKR won Sungai Kandis seat with a 12,480-vote majority in the 14th general election.
Tahfiz school principal Zawawi Ahmad Mughni from PKR will run against Umno supreme council member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam in the Sungai Kandis by-election.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia assoc professor Faisal Hazis said this would be the first election after Umno’s change in leadership and he was keen to see if the party would go back to its old ways, which was race and religion-based politics.
He said it was also interesting to see if the votes previously won by PAS would shift to Umno since the Islamic party was giving way to Umno for a straight fight.
He said based on the GE14 results, PH won a big majority in Sungai Kandis, but only managed to capture 55.6 per cent of the popular vote.
“A significant number of votes went to Umno and PAS. But in GE14, there was a widespread rejection towards Umno or Barisan Nasional, which was why people who did not want to vote for PH voted for PAS instead,” he said.
Faisal said if the trend persists, then PAS supporters would not root for Umno in the by-election, unless the Malay party starts to play the racial and religious card, which he said may change the scenario.
“The key for this election is voter turnout. Since in a by-election, voter turnout is usually low, it might affect the final outcome. Both sides need to make sure their supporters come out and vote.”
“PKR still has a slight advantage because of their power of at the state and federal level, and also had managed to capture 55 per cent votes in GE14. Its majority might drop due to a lower turnout but they should be able to defend it,” said Faisal, adding that there would not be a drastic change in voting patterns within a short period of time post-GE14.
Universiti Utara Malaysia Politics and International Relations at the School of International Studies associate professor Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani said as Sungai Kandis was a PKR fortress, the party would not be expected to win with a bigger majority in the by-election.
“Normally the turnout rate in a by-election is lower than the general election. That’s the main concern for PKR. At the same time, PAS won’t contest and their supporters would probably vote for Umno’s candidate,” he said.
“However, if the votes from non-Malays, which is about 30 per cent, is solid, then PKR stands a chance to win. On top of that, they may also get sympathy votes over the loss of the former assemblyman,” he said.
The Sungai Kandis state seat fell vacant after Mat Shuhaimi died on July 2 from lymphoma cancer.
He was the former political secretary of ex-Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.
Selangor Umno liaison committee deputy chairman Datuk Mat Nadzari Ahmad Dahlan said the by-election was a good time for the people of Sungai Kandis to express their sentiments on the new government since the past 70 days.
He also said social media will be Umno’s main campaigning method in the race.
“This is the best time for the people to show how they feel of the performance of the current government, to show their sincerity in choosing their representative.
“We have decided on the candidate, and it was interesting that we had direct and conclusive discussion with the divisions before a decision was made,” Mat Nadzari told Malay Mail.
PKR communications chief Fahmi Fadzil said despite the GE14 win, his party should not take it for granted and must continue to work hard for the people of Sungai Kandis.
“The by-election came out of a very sad moment for PKR. But we cannot take it for granted that we will win and still have to work hard to show the people of Sungai Kandis how much the party cares for the people.
“This will also be the first by-election where the Opposition will have to come into the fight with whatever resources and they have and can no longer misuse as they did before, such as government machinery and allocations. People will watch to see how things will develop,” he said.
The Sungai Kandis by-election will be held on August 4.