The Chinese and Indians are still likely to be mostly behind Pakatan Rakyat, ie the PAS candidate. This means that most of the 36 per cent of the voters are behind PR.
But what about the Malays there? Nearly 64 per cent of the total voters are Malays.
It would be obvious to say the Malays are split, but many more seem to be tilting to BN this time around.
Why? Just like the Chinese and Indians are tired of the loud language of Umno and the keris, many Malays are increasingly tired (and worried) of the loud language of the DAP and Chinese groups in pushing previous boundaries, including the MCA which is asking for a Deputy PM, for example.
(That the minorities have real grievances cannot be denied, but still, to push too hard too soon have unnerved more and more Malays. Again, you might totally disagree because to some people, all the noises being made to defend Malay rights are coming from Umnoputeras.
(I do think, though, it is being simplistic to just say: this is Umnoputera wanting to defend their turf; and that most Malays are happy to share the wealth and top political positions in Tanah Melayu with others; and most Malays want to give everyone equal rights to set up prayer houses everywhere like the sprouting of mosques. And hey, most Malays will agree if the minorities want to say that Malaysia is not an Islamic state and they want to reduce the Malay-ruler institution, too).
(But these are different sets of arguments altogether and will involve a lot of emo for most people, so I am not going to into it. I admit too I am ill-equipped to go into this, because I was born and bred in a different country and have totally different life experience.
(Nanti orang tuduh masuk campur hal orang lain. Saya hanya menumpang di Malaysia….)
(I just wanted to show there are enough issues on the plate for rural Malays especially, and those poor urban Malays, to want to run away from Pakatan. They might not have benefited much from Umno too, but they might not like to empower the “Chinese”/DAP through PR and PAS).
Anyway, unless there is a HUGE swing by the Malay voters, then PAS-PR will still win – due to the strong Chinese support.
A big swing into Umno’s vote bank is not impossible because in the March GE last year, many from Umno had voted for opposition, or they did not bother to vote.
Now Umno has gotten rid of a Prime Minister with a “mediocre” administration (in the words of my friend, Star columnist Joceline Tan). There is a new PM in charge.
Plus former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, hated by netizens and the opposition, but loved in the kampungs, is back on the campaign trail. He should be able to pull in a few votes.
My final bet: PR 2, BN 1.
My bet is that both sides will defend their seats*.
But they will all have REDUCED MAJORITY.
(*although Bukit Selambau was won by an Independent, he joined PKR, so it became a PR seats)
Anyway, below is what I had blogged in the website of my newspaper, straitstimes.com on Monday afternoon.
I had to go into some basics because not every Singaporean understand the twists and turns. Unless they follow Malaysian politics closely, I daresay Singaporeans don’t know that there is a State Assembly which is separate from the federal Parliament. But thanks to the takeover of Perak by BN, I guess more of the Temasek people do now!
Reme Ahmad takes out his crystal-ball ahead of M’sia’s by-elections.
MALAYSIAN voters will go to polling booths in one constituency each in Sarawak, Kedah and Perak on Tuesday but the results will not change the face of State Assemblies of the three states.
While the bets are on a 2-1 win for either the governing Barisan Nasional coalition or the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition, things are still fluid on the ground, from my checks with players on both sides.
Let’s do a short summary of the three constituencies.
1. Batang Ai, a state constituency in Sarawak
The by-election is being held here after its previous assemblyman passed away. BN is putting up a candidate from one of its Sarawak component parties, and PR has put up a Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) candidate. There is also an independent candidate. The general consensus seems to be – I say “seems to be” because there are voices who will loudly disagree – that BN will win in the constituency.
The roughly 8,000 voters are mostly from the ethnic Iban community. They are likely to vote for status quo and return a BN candidate to power.
If that is to happen, BN can shout from the rooftops that the people of Sarawak have rejected the opposition’s plan to take over the timber-rich state.
But, if the Ibans and the smattering of Malays vote in a candidate from Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR, then it could spell trouble for BN. The opposition can claim that even the staunch BN state of Sarawak does not want the governing coalition any more.
2. Bukit Selambau, a state constituency in Kedah.
The by-election is being held after its ethnic Indian assemblyman quit his position following bigamy allegations.
Here, BN is represented by a candidate from the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and PR has put up a PKR Indian candidate. There are also 13 independents – making it a 15-pronged contest, a record in Malaysian electoral history.
The 35,140 voters here are nearly 30 per cent Indians – one of the biggest in percentage terms in any constituency in Malaysia.
Another 50 per cent are Malays and 19 per cent are Chinese (1 per cent are Others, including Orang Asli aborigines).
In Malaysian politics where voting is often along racial lines, the Indians are thought to be against BN on complaints that the government has ignored their grouses. And many Indians are unhappy with the MIC led by former minister S. Samy Vellu, and over the detention of five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) – two of them have since been released.
The Chinese are expected to remain mostly behind PR.
Among the majority Malays are many supporters of very-Muslim Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) who will not vote for either the BN or PR candidate because both are not Muslim! But overall, the view seems to be that the PKR-PR candidate will win. This means the state seat will remain with the opposition.
But if the voters pick BN instead, it will be a (small) reversal for BN after the loss of Kedah state to PR in the GE last year. And may even point to people wanting to give new PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak a chance to prove his worth, despite the baggage he carries to office.
3. Bukit Gantang, a Parliament constituency in Perak.
The by-election is being held after the death of its MP, a PAS leader.
In Malaysia’s two-level governance system, the State Assemblies (headed by Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers) control the state, while the federal Parliament runs the country as a whole.
The PAS candidate contesting this seat, Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, is already an assemblyman in Perak. He was the menteri besar of Perak until BN ousted him and the PR government in February. An assemblyman is allowed to run for a Parliament seat, as he is doing.
More importantly, PR is asking voters to vote for him to show BN that they prefer him as Menteri Besar and not the BN man who has taken over.
Facing him is a local Perakian from Umno-BN. If the voters pick Datuk Seri Nizar, PR will shout that the “referendum” has shown that Perakians want the PR government back.
But among the 55,562 voters, nearly 64 per cent are Malay and many seem to be tilting towards Umno-BN. Another 27 per cent are Chinese who are thought to be solidly behind PR, although the candidate is from PAS. The 9 per cent of Indian voters are thought to be mostly for PR also.
If they pick the unknown Umno-BN candidate instead, BN can go to town saying PR has been rejected.
So, my crystal ball says, while the final score is difficult to determine, Batang Ai may go to BN, Bukit Selambau to PR and Bukit Gantang could swing either way.
However, if one side were to win 3-0, the political landscape could experience a mini-tsunami.
For BN, a 3-0 win will re-energise it. Things have not improved since BN’s huge loss in the March 2008 general elections (GE) – it lost five states and its customary two-thirds majority federal Parliament. It has also lost the last two by-elections since. It lost a in Permatang Pauh (Penang) which brought opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim back to Parliament. It then lost another contest in Kuala Terengganu (capital of Terengganu).
A 3-0 win by BN will also weaken the opposition front, but I think such a win is highly unlikely.
On the other hand, a 3-0 win by PR will spell disaster for Datuk Seri Najib. But, it seems unlikely, as some of the magic of Datuk Seri Anwar has faded.