Eventually, BN decided to field former Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Tan Sri Isa Samad for the Bagan Pinang by-election. He was picked as the BN candidate based on the voters’ wishes. It is what BN needs. Only by winning the by-election, the party’s morale can be boosted and Pakatan Rakyat’s winning streak can be stopped. As for the “aftermath”, they will deal with it only after the by-election.
Based on personal networks, it is an advantage for Isa to have been raised locally. He has high affinity and voters here emphasise on sensibilities. On the other hand, PAS candidate Zulkefly Mohamad Omar is not locally born or raised. Naturally, he is incomparable with deep-rooted Isa. In addition, 34% (4604 votes) of the total voters are military voters. If BN keeps the two advantages, it may gain the first victory after the 8 March general elections.
However, BN is facing some adverse factors, too. Would MIC President S. Samy Vellu’s refusal to step down and the “cow-head” issue affect the 20% Indian votes? Meanwhile, it depends on MCA to fight for the 11% Chinese votes. But MCA is currently facing a party crisis, would the leaders of the two factions, who are busy with the party’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), put all their efforts to assist the by-election? Would some Chinese voters give up voting?
Also, the Opposition will stir up issues like DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock’s death and the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal. But it is not sure yet whether these issues will resonate with voters. As long as BN does not disarray itself, I believe that it can win the by-election with the basic, military and homeland sentimental votes.
As for PAS and Pakatan Rakyat, the significance to win the by-election or reduce BN’s votes are:
1. As a PAS leader said, this is the first by-election in the southern Peninsular Malaysia. It can test Pakatan Rakyat’s strength in the states located below Selangor and Kuala Lumpur,. It is also a touchstone for the next general elections. The southern Peninsular Malaysia is a stronghold for BN, as well as the protective screen for the BN federal government. Thus, the Bagan Pinang by-election may be regarded as an attack and defence battle.
2. PAS is able to build its bridgehead in “Malay states” like Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah but it has failed to lay a sound foundation in multi-racial states. PAS contested for 13 state seats in Negri Sembilan during the 8 March general elections and won its first state seat in the state. If PAS wins the Bagan Pinang state seat this time, it is able to establish a firm footing in Negri Sembilan. The by-election will as well show whether PAS is able to gain support from non-Malay voters.
The recent words and deeds of PAS have revealed its conservative thinking and theocratic belief, Chinese voters may convey their feelings through the by-election.
3. The by-election will test the partnership between DAP and PAS. There have been many disputes between the two parties. For example, Selangor PAS commissioner Datuk Dr Hasan Ali criticised the Select Committee for Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) headed by Selangor state assembly Speaker Teng Chang Khim (DAP). In order to win the by-election, PAS needs the support from DAP, which is having the greatest strength in the state, would DAP “return good for evil”?
The Bagan Pinang by-election is having its political significance but the by-election results will not change the political situation. The struggle will continue after the by-election. (By LIM SUE GOAN/Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE/Sin Chew Daily)
A revival opportunity for BN