Tanjung Piai by-election: Clash of agendas between BN and PH

Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional flags line a road in Sungai Rembah, Pontian November 4, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional flags line a road in Sungai Rembah, Pontian November 4, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PONTIAN, Nov 10 — Campaigning for the Tanjung Piai Parliamentary By-Election has entered its ninth day and the parties and candidates contesting the poll should now be able to gauge where they stand in the eyes of the residents and electors in Tanjung Piai.

Although the by-election this time involves a contest among six candidates, but the real fight is between two parties namely Pakatan Harapan (PH) and the Barisan Nasional (BN) which is fielding the candidate who lost in the 14th General Election (GE14) recently.

PH and BN have their own respective agendas with the PH wanting to use the clash this time to gauge how far the people were supporting the party after more than a year running the government following its victory in GE14.

BN, which is also being supported by PAS, will certainly want to exploit the opportunity to experiment with the concept of Muafakat Nasional (National Consensus) after the signing of the agreement between Umno and PAS which indirectly involves BN to woo the support of every strata of the Malay community who make up about 57 per cent of the voters in the Tanjung Piai Parliamentary constituency.

The fact that both parties are fielding representatives considered to be recycled candidates might not be apparent to the voters, but certainly they have their own strengths to influence the leaderships of the respective parties to have faith in them.

For the BN, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng, 55, was the Member of Parliament for the constituency for two terms from 2008 to 2018 before losing to the late Datuk Dr Farid Md Rafik in GE14 with a slight majority of 524 votes.

The PH candidate, Karmaine Sardini, 66, on the other hand contested in the neighbouring Parliamentary constituency, namely Pontian but lost to the BN candidate Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan, also by a narrow majority of 833 votes.

Wee might be better known for winning two terms as the Member of Parliament for the constituency besides being the State Assemblyman (ADUN) for Pekan Nenas from 2004 to 2008, but Karmaine, although not fully known by the electorates, but as one of the founders of Tanjung Piai Bersatu and being the divisional head for Tanjung Piai Bersatu, he certainly had a role to play in the PH victory last year.

He too has the support from the ruling party at the Johor state government and federal level to be capable of playing a bigger role in bringing development to Tanjung Piai.

For Wee, he was coming back to contest despite being defeated last year as he has good ties with the residents and constituents in Tanjung Piai and wanted to continue to be of service to Tanjung Piai.

Karmaine, meanwhile, wanted to use the campaign period to approach as many voters as possible because he felt that many only knew his name but had never met or know his personality closely.

“I am contesting this time as I am a local candidate. I am a villager (from Tanjung Piai parliamentary constituency) here. This is my kampung and my main focus is more to resolve the problems faced by all the people in Tanjung Piai,” said Karmaine.

For political analyst Dr Md Akbal Abdullah, the strength of PH was because they were the ruling party and the presence of PH leaders holding positions in the government gave an opportunity to the people to continue to voice their problems while the government should take the opportunity to listen to their problems directly.

“In this aspect actually, the PH already has a basic advantage as they are the government and thus could promise development, unlike the opposition (BN) because they are no longer the government,” he added.

However, he said, the BN was coming to Tanjung Piai this time bringing confidence from the three previous by-election victories namely for the Cameron Highlands parliamentary and the Semenyih and Rantau State Assembly seats.

“Tanjung Piai is also the first location to feature the unity of the ummah (involving the PAS and UMNO collaboration) involving a non-Muslim candidate (from the MCA), so the spirit is different compared to the other by-elections,” he said.

Md Akbal also said any political party should not be too comfortable with the votes from the Chinese community received previously because their support was beyond expectation.

PH and BN also should not take lightly the participation of party Gerakan and Parti Barisan Jemaah Islamiah (Berjasa) as well as two Independent candidates which could break the votes.

The Tanjung Piai by-election is being held following the death of its elected representative Datuk Dr Md Farid Md Rafik, 42, from PH on September 21 recently due to heart complication. Polling day has been fixed for Nov 16 while early voting will be on November 12.

Besides PH and BN, the by-election this time also involves Gerakan represented by Wendy Subramaniam, Datuk Dr Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz (Berjasa) and two Independent candidates, Dr Ang Chuan Lock and Faridah Aryani Abd Ghaffar. — Bernama

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