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COMMENTARY, Sept 29 — Opposition Barisan Nasional (BN) is expected to field the former MCA candidate Wee Jeck Seng, or commonly known as “Jackson Wee”, for the upcoming Tanjung Piai parliamentary seat by-election, with the date to be announced on Monday by the Election Commission (EC).
Despite the seat having Malay majority voters comprising 57 per cent; Chinese 42 per cent; and Indian voters just 1 per cent, BN may not see the necessity to field an Umno candidate as Wee seems to possess a good performance record, winning the seat in the 2008 general election, retaining it in the 2013 general election before losing it in the 2018 general election due to the Malay tsunami.
There is little or no change at all in the constituency’s geo-political landscape and this may make it easier for BN to take back the seat by fielding the same candidate who is known by the voters personally.
BN’s new political cooperation with PAS may boost its chances as the Malay voters who were split in last year’s general election will now be united.
With parties on both sides of the political divide excited with the upcoming by-election in Johor, the ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) may see it as an uphill battle to retain the seat and a yardstick to measure its performance thus far.
The seat was won by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), with other parties in the coalition not seeing any reason to fight over it. But Bersatu may have a problem with who to field, given the fact that it is new and the party division members are also new.
While selling a new face is difficult, the PH administration still has the problem of delivering its election manifesto which is now a sore point for many voters all over the country.
With a majority win of just 500-odd votes, the ruling coalition may find itself in rocky waters as garnering Malay votes is no longer a walk in the park and attracting non-Malay voters is like selling a fridge to an eskimo as the khat or jawi lesson issue is still hanging over their heads while the cost of living remains high.
The Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election is no longer seen as a seat that is safe, not because the Opposition has a candidate known to voters, but because of PH’s own weaknesses in fulfilling its promises.
The Tanjung Piai by-election may not see racial issues taking centre stage in the campaign, as BN-PAS understands they still need Chinese votes to win, given the demographic as well as the fact that the two Opposition parties need to maintain their political philosophy that no race will be sidelined.
A similar scenario was seen in the Cameron Highlands, Semenyih parliamentary by-elections as well as the Rantau state seat by-election.
However, the ruling coalition has an ace in the hole in the form of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to tilt the balance at the last minute to change the odds to favour its candidate.
The seat became vacant with the death of incumbent MP Md Farid Mohd Rafik on September 22.
A deputy Minister in the Prime Minister Department, the 42-year old Bersatu leader died of a heart attack.