Uphill task for Pakatan in battle for Malay votes in Semenyih by-election

The political atmosphere and scenario are totally different from last year and the Semenyih by-election will be tough for Pakatan. ― Picture by Farhan Najib
The political atmosphere and scenario are totally different from last year and the Semenyih by-election will be tough for Pakatan. ― Picture by Farhan Najib

PETALING JAYA, Feb 13 — Barring any last-minute entry from Independent candidates, the Semenyih state seat by-election in Selangor is expected to be a four-way fight and the focus will once again be on the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Opposition Barisan Nasional (BN).

The seat held by PKR in the 2013 general election and retained by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) in the 14th general election is a Malay-majority seat — 69.2 per cent of the total 54,503 voters.

PKR won the seat in 2013 because Umno, representing BN, was split while PAS was against Umno as it was in the PKR-led state government. PPBM which replaced PKR won under a similar situation with the help of the change of political wind last year.

Now, the situation has changed and the winning streak is no longer with PPBM — or rather the ruling PH government — may it be in the state or national level.

The political atmosphere and scenario are totally different from last year and the battle this time around is far more rough and tough, and more focused on day to day life.

Added to it, is the perception on the government of the day, which affects the long term assumption that Malays and Islam are being slowly sidelined from the mainstream political agenda.

Of the four that have expressed intention to contest are local Malaysian Society of Community Policing (CP) president Kuan Chee Heng, better known as “Uncle Kentang” or even the “10-sen man”, Parti Socialis Malaysia (PSM) which will announce its candidate tonight, PH which will field a candidate from PPBM and BN whose candidate will be from Umno. Umno’s ally Islamist PAS will stay out of the race in support of BN.

Kuan is probably the most committed but Malaysia’s politics is such that a Maverick without any party is always brushed aside as his voice will not be heard in the state assembly.

PSM is considered as an opportunist who is neither here nor there in the country’s mainstream political arena and as always, the party may even lose its deposit.

The battle will essentially be between PPBM and Umno.

Their target is none other than the 69.2 per cent or the 36,857 Malay voters comprising of odd-jobs workers, civil servants, factory workers, pensioners and small business owners.

The way the voters’ minds think can no longer be likened as the way it was in May 9 general election because the atmosphere and environment have changed in the last nine months.

Besides the unfulfilled pledges in the PH manifesto which the leaders are now probably profusely finding excuses, the perception that DAP is dominant in the ruling coalition weighs heavily among the Malay voters.

Candidates fielded by both parties may not be the highest criteria in the by-election so are their qualifications whether legit or otherwise which is now taking centre stage in social media.

It is to quote PPBM president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin words “allaying fears of Malays are now seen as being sidelined” is the main issue.

While BN’s allies MCA and MIC may not play an important role in wooing the Chinese and Indian voters which the general public have already assumed would back DAP, PAS is considered as the “Tonto to Lone Ranger Umno” that can tilt the winning odds.

Semenyih, a sub-urban seat just a 40-minutes’ drive from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, is considered backwards, seems forgotten in development despite its short distance from the fast-moving and the mad economic race of the cosmopolitan city of Kuala Lumpur.

Development is seen as haphazard seemingly lack of proper planning and traffic congestion is a norm to the constituents as they go about their daily routine without “screaming for sympathy”.

It will be an uphill battle for PH in the battle for the Malay minds in Semenyih.