Challenge is winning the Malay votes in Bukit Selambau

By Adib Zalkapli (Malaysian Insider)
SUNGAI PETANI, April 1 – With less than a week to go before polling day, both Barisan Nasional and PKR are trying their best to at least maintain the level of support from the Malays that they had obtained in the last year’s general election.

Both parties are now examining their chances of winning the Malay votes at polling districts and stream levels in a crowded race where 13 independents are also vying for the seat.
The Malays form slightly more than half of the 34,977 voters in the Bukit Selambau constituency which is probably why Malay independent candidates such as retired army officer Anuar Hamid are in the race.
“The Malays here want a Malay to be their representative, they are very disappointed with Arumugam,” Anuar told The Malaysian Insider, referring to the former Kedah state executive councillor who vacated the seat.
“We are not racist, we just want this seat to be returned to the Malays,” he added.
But BN, which fielded MIC’s Datuk S. Ganesan, is not worried about the independent candidates who are running on a race platform as there are too many of them.
“If only Major Anuar alone is contesting maybe we will have problems, but there are six independent Malay candidates so we are not worried,” said Merbok Umno division chief Datuk Tajul Urus Mat Zain.
He also claimed that the coalition has made inroads into Malay-dominated areas where it lost in March last year.
Out of 11 Malay majority polling districts, the party only won four, resulting in BN’s defeat by more than 2,000 votes. There are 22 polling districts in the constituency.
“We can get at least three more Malay districts,” said Tajul Urus.
“In two of the districts, Kampung Pokok Machang and Batu Belachan, we only lost by three and four votes,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Tajul Urus has done his mathematics and thinks that BN will be able to wrest control of the seat from PKR.
“There are 8,000 Umno members here, we can get about 6,000 to back our candidate, so we need another 6,000 non-Umno members from the Indian and Chinese community to win the seat,” he added.
But PKR claimed that the support from the Malay community towards the party and its de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim remains consistent.
Party strategist Saifuddin Nasution said in the worst case scenario when Anwar was the target of various political and personal attack, the support level from the Malay community was around 38 per cent.
“This was when Anwar was called Jewish agent and traitor of the Malay race and so on,” said Saifuddin citing a survey of 1,500 Bukit Selambau voters conducted by the party.
The Machang MP however refused to divulge further details of the survey which was used as the basis of the party’s campaign strategy.
He added that the support of the Malays to the Islamist party Pas was higher so its assistance in the Malay-dominated polling districts would help PKR ensure its victory.
“The pattern is not surprising with PKR being a multi-racial party,” said Saifuddin.
As for PKR candidate S. Manikumar, he believes that his ability to speak the northern dialect fluently and his success in portraying his image as a Malaysian leader would ensure his victory in Malay areas.
“Last time Arumugam contested as an independent candidate. Now I’m the PKR candidate, campaigning with a message, fighting for Bangsa Malaysia,” said Manikumar when asked on his chances of winning the Malay votes.