By-election: Level playing field for once?

Regina Lee (Malaysiakini)
When Zaid Ibrahim’s name was announced on Tuesday as the candidate for the Hulu Selangor by-election, euphoria rippled through Pakatan Rakyat ranks.
Here was a man with a captivating rags-to-riches story, and whose name is synonymous with personal integrity fit for a Hallmark movie.
On the other side, front runner in MIC’s camp then was the party number two G Palanivel – president S Samy Vellu’s blue-eyed-boy and yet so despised by grassroots Umno leaders.
It was easy to see the clear winner when the BN was in a state of disarray with component parties spitting venom at each other, threatening boycotts and such over who to field.
But now that the dust has settled, and an apparent compromise reached on “local” boy and MIC information chief P Kamalanathan,(whose hometown, Rawang, is about 50km away) as the nominee, it may not be a walkover for Zaid anymore.

Caught with pants down?

hulu selangor by-election nomination 170410 zaid ibrahim with pakatan leadersEven as early as last week before Zaid’s (left centre) name was formally announced, Kamalanathan’s was already being whispered around, although that was brushed aside then.
And PKR leaders were overheard saying that while battle with Palanivel would not amount to much at all, a by-election with Kamalanathan may be a tad more problematic.
Some say that in politics, it is always best to leave everything to the last possible moment to be sure not to be caught with the pants down.
And when Zaid’s candidacy was made public a whole two days before Kamalanathan’s, many questioned the wisdom of the move.
But not Monash University political scientist James Chin, begged to defer, saying that it will help quell unrest and stop intense lobbying like what happened on the BN side.
Sabotage in the making?
“I think that (PKR) did the right thing. Early on, everyone was expecting local born neurosurgeon Dr Halili Rahmat.
“But everyone knew that Anwar had set his sights on Zaid, so there was not much lobbying in the PKR to begin with,” he said.
NONEWhile Kamalanathan’s (left) candidacy should help close BN ranks, some are still doubtful whether hardcore pro Palanival grassroots MIC members will come out to campaign for a BN victory.
Independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said that Kamalanathan is still very vulnerable to internal sabotage from his party itself.
Although the Hulu Selangor MIC division appears to have resigned itself to fate and is moving on, Palanivel’s supporters, and there will be a lot of them for the former four-term MP, could very well sit out the polls.
“I don’t think Palani’s people will come out (to campaign),” said Khoo.
“The local Umno has been fighting for (former Selangor MB Muhammad Muhammab Taib), and even with Kamalanathan, I don’t think there will be a difference,” he said on whether Palanivel would have stood a better chance.
Khoo also said that although, machinery-wise, Zaid appears to have the upperhand, “Pakatan has not been doing that great anyway”.
“There are still a lot of problems, there is still more talk than walk.
“It’ll actually be an even playing field in this by-election,” he added.
Vengeful dislike for Zaid
But in a Malay-majority seat with close to 53 per cent of them out of 64,500 voters (Chinese make up 26.3%, Indians 19.3% and others 1.7%), many may vote for Zaid simply on the basis of skin colour .
The Merdeka Center for Opinion Research chief Ibrahim Suffian said that although Zaid already generated a vengeful dislike for him within Umno which expelled him for attending PKR functions in December 2008, many Malays still look up to him.
azlan”He may have polarized the electorate who still vote along racial lines,” he said.
Ibrahim also pointed out that the 721 Orang Asli electorate, may be the deciders with the Malay and Indian votes split in half, with the Chinese stil loyal to the Pakatan.
“During the last general election, nearly all the Orang Asli voted for the BN. But that may change,” he said, adding that the PKR will certainly mobilise their links with civil society NGOs.
While Khoo and Ibrahim gave a fair 50-50 chance to both Kamalanathan and Zaid, Chin was convinced that the MIC PR guru is facing a Herculean task ahead of him.
“I put all my money on Zaid. Unless someone uncovers a shocking scandal of his just before polling day,” said Chin.