COMMENTARY, March 6 — Voters will know today when the Rantau by-election will be held, but it remains to be seen who will be the victor as it may not be a sure win for incumbent Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan.
The political landscape has changed, and so have the political minds of the 20,400-odd voters — of which Malays make up 53 per cent — as the politician known as Tok Mat is no longer the Negri Sembilan mentri besar.
Even as Umno and PAS formalise their political ties after a meet yesterday, the Malay votes in Rantau remain split between not only the two, but also with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and PKR.
While the Chinese voters are strongly behind Pakatan Harapan (PH), the Indian voters who were majority BN supporters in the last general election may this time around be torn contemplating which side can improve their livelihoods.
Tok Mat had developed the constituency in an inclusive way by not depriving any community their fair share of the economic cake. But he is now in the Opposition.
This may not be enough for voters in the sleepy town where nearly half work in oil palm plantations while the younger generation work in factories away in Seremban.
On May 9, Tok Mat had won uncontested, so he was spared the challenges of campaigning against the full force of the wave that swept the then-ruling BN away.
But this time around Tok Mat will face the full might of the new ruling pact — who does not wish to see a repeat of yet another loss after Cameron Highlands and Semenyih.
To PH, there is more at stake, since Tok Mat as acting Umno president bears much responsibility for the strategies that led to BN’s downfall in GE14.
Umno may now feel the absence of its BN partners MCA and MIC, as the two have announced they are seeking a new political alliance.
However MCA and MIC decide, Tok Mat will need their help in Rantau to gauge the sentiments on the ground. The climate, after all, has much changed since his last uncontested win.