PONTIAN, Nov 14 — The battle to win the Tanjung Piai vote ahead of this Saturday’s by-election will not be an easy task, with voter sentiments divided among the two main component parties — Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN).
However, ground sentiments in the past few days have seen the Malay community still loyal to BN, while the Chinese community has been divided on PH.
This is despite the litany of corruption charges levelled against BN leaders after GE14, including Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and BN’s poster boy for Malaysia Baharu — former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
If anything, BN wears these leaders on their sleeves with pride, as the likes of Najib and other former government leaders have been headlining the ceramah circuit in the constituency.
In ‘Pasukan Biru’ we trust
A Rimba Terjun resident Anas Samad, 24, when met by Malay Mail here said that his choice will be with BN as he feels that the coalition can champion the locals in Tanjung Piai better.
“For many years, my family has been loyally supporting Pasukan Biru (Blue Team) as it is the only political party that we know that is capable of administering the country.
“I have my doubts about voting for Pasukan Merah (Red Team) as they have yet to deliver a lot of promises to my area after they won in last year’s general election,” said Anas, referring to the Blue Team as BN and the Red Team as PH.
Anas, who works as a waiter in a restaurant near the Pontian town centre, said he was unfazed by the corruption cases among previous BN leaders as it does not affect Umno as a party or the coalition.
Another resident from Serkat, who wanted to be known as Noor, shared Anas’ sentiments that BN was her party of choice since the past two general elections.
“I remember when BN was in power and how (Datuk Seri) Wee Jeck Seng used to assist my relatives in Serkat,” said the 44-year-old car wash worker.
She said she was not bothered by the corruption cases involving the party’s top leaders as several of her own relatives are also Umno branch leaders in Tanjung Piai.
“I don’t see any bad side to them and they actually serve the community better compared to those in Pakatan,” said Noor.
Kampung Duku resident Md Fairus Md Jamaluddin said his vote will go to BN as a show of solidarity with the people.
The 32-year-old office administrator said choosing BN this time round will also be as a show of protest to the PH administration for him.
“I feel that not much has been achieved by PH,” said Md Fairus, adding that this was evident in unfulfilled promises made by the ruling administration.
He said the corruption cases involving BN’s leaders does not affect his support for the Opposition coalition.
“The cases are still pending in court and please be fair that it should not be connected with the party. The party has not done anything wrong,” said Md Fairus.
However, Parit Mesjid voter Ikmal S. said his sentiments are with PH as he believed that the coalition is ‘cleaner’ and more transparent compared to BN.
“For me, any changes can only be made by PH as they are in the government now and has an edge compared to being in the Opposition.
“At the same time, I’m also not keen on the promises by BN, Gerakan or also Berjasa,” said Ikmal, a Pineapple trader who is in his late 30s.
‘Wait and see’
For the Chinese community, voters seem to have adopted a “wait and see” attitude.
Pekan Nanas resident, Tan Meng Han said he was not a BN supporter as he perceived the coalition needs a cleaner image.
“At the same time, PH is also not offering a good alternative for me due to the recent national issues.
“But I am still open to who can best represent my interests,” said the 48-year-old industrial equipment supplier.
Another Pekan Nanas voter, who wanted to be known as Chee, said he was not keen on voting for BN as he will not give the Opposition coalition his support.
The 38-year-old factory supervisor said during BN’s time as the government, his life had never changed much.
“With PH, my life has also not improved much. But I am patient for change,” said Chee.
A coffeeshop operator from Penerok named Yeo said his vote will still be with PH as he has been a staunch DAP supporter since 2008.
He believes that DAP, being part of PH, can be better than MCA and BN, whose leaders have been tangled in corruption scandals.
“Even in Penerok, the previous BN MP (Wee) did not do much for the community here. So, how can I give my support to them?” asked Yeo.
However, Kukup resident, who only wanted to be known as Anthony, said that his affiliation has always been with MCA under the BN coalition.
“MCA was very active here in Kukup when Wee helmed the constituency as an MP.
“Despite BN not winning in the last general election, I am confident that the coalition will make a comeback,” said the businessman who is in his 40s.
Time for a change?
For Johor Umno liaison committee secretary Datuk Samsol Bari Jamali, the current sentiments show that the voters in Tanjung Piai are unhappy with the current PH government.
“For us, it's the people who can value for themselves on who can best represent them.
“In this case, those that voted PH in the past felt that the ruling coalition’s promises were unfulfilled,” said Samsol Bari.
The Semarang assemblyman also pointed out that the people know that BN’s leaders who were charged have not been found guilty yet.
“Personally, I feel that this does not change the party or coalition. We must remember, leaders can change while the party remains,” said Samsol Bari.
Meanwhile, DAP Johor secretary Tan Hong Pin explained that the Tanjung Piai campaign ahead of the November 16 polls may see a heated battle for PH, with a 50-50 chance.
Despite that, the Skudai assemblyman said such sentiments for PH may not be accurate as he believes that the Chinese voters will not give their votes to BN.
“I am still confident that PH can attract a good number for the by-election,” he said.
The Tanjung Piai by-election will see a six-way contest between PH’s Karmaine Sardini, BN’s Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng, Gerakan’s Wendy Subramaniam, Berjasa’s Datuk Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz, and two independent candidates Ang Chuan Lock and Faridah Aryani Abdul Ghaffar.
On the cards, both PH and BN campaigners are confident that they can expect a majority of support from the parliamentary constituency’s 53,528 registered voters.
Pekan Nanas has 26,608 registered voters, with nearly half, at 45 per cent, being ethnic Chinese, while Kukup has 26,920 voters with 60 per cent or of them Malay.
This is despite two other political parties, Gerakan and Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (Berjasa) competing for votes together with two other independent candidates.
Polling is scheduled for this Saturday.