National issues dominate Rantau by-election campaign, says analyst

Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional flags line a road in Rantau April 1, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional flags line a road in Rantau April 1, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

SEREMBAN, April 7 ― With seven more days to go until the Rantau by-election, the national issues seemed to have dominated the campaign trails of two candidates ― Dr S. Streram from the Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan from the Barisan Nasional (BN).

One of the issues raised frequently was the comparison between the federal government under the current PH administration and the BN.

Political analyst Md Shukri Shuib said the trend was not unusual as this upcoming by-election was viewed by many quarters as the by-election that would determine the future survival of both PH and BN.

“For them, the Rantau by-election will serve as a benchmark to see whether the BN’s winning momentum after the Cameron Highlands and Semenyih by-elections will continue here or it will be stopped by PH,” he told Bernama here.

The Rantau by-election on April 13 will witness a four-cornered fight involving Dr Streram, who is also PKR Rembau deputy chief, Mohamad, who is also Umno deputy president and two independent candidates, housewife R. Malarvizhi and former lecturer Mohd Nor Yassin.

However, Md Shukri, who is also Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) political and international studies senior lecturer, said the coming by-election, seventh to be held after the 14th general election, in May last year, should not be defined in such a way.

“Rantau is not the mother of all by-elections, it is to maintain the status quo and if BN wins it will not bring political trauma to PH as BN has been here for three terms.

“Likewise, if the PH wins in the coming Sandakan parliamentary by-election, it is expected as Sandakan is their fortress,” he said.

Mohamad, also known as Tok Mat, among others, touched on his desire to create a two-party system, as well as to explain to the voters the objective of the cooperation between Umno and PAS since the beginning of the campaign period.

Issues such as water tariff increase, PH government performance at the federal level, Rome Statute and Tabung Haji dividend were also touched by Mohamad, who is also Negri Sembilan former mentri besar and three-term Rantau assemblyman since 2004.

Meanwhile, Dr Streram was more focused on questioning Mohamad’s track record in the Rantau constituency and the Negri Sembilan as a whole, as well as the credibility of Umno’s deputy president during the BN rule pertaining to the 1MDB scandal.

In addition, Dr Streram, an anaesthetist, also raised the need of housing, health clinic and fire station as well as job opportunities in the Rantau constituency as they were considered to be less than satisfactory.

The campaign trails of the two candidates were also assisted by the presence of their respective top party leadership and component parties. ― Bernama