The battle for Ayer Hitam heats up

07 May 2018 / 23:40 H.

PETALING JAYA: Despite the spotlight being on the candidates from Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH), the people who will ultimately decide the winner in the battle of Ayer Hitam are the Malay voters, who constitute the majority, and the spoiler candidates from PAS.
Of the 46,157 voters in the constituency, 26,710 or 57.87% are Malays, and 17,561 or 38.05% are Chinese.
The voter turnout in the last general election was 83%. Assuming a turnout rate of 80% for GE14, a total of 36,925 voters will cast their ballots tomorrow. Unlike the voting trend of the Chinese voters which is easier to predict, the decisions of the Malay voters are harder to gauge, Sin Chew Daily reported yesterday.
In GE13, incumbent BN candidate Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong of MCA garnered as much as 80% of the Malay votes when his Pakatan Rakyat opponent was Hu Pang Chow, a PAS-nominated non-Muslim candidate.
Will the Muslims who voted for Hu in 2013 throw their support behind PH this time around or stick with PAS? Were there PAS supporters who did not vote for Hu in GE13 because he is a non-Muslim? These are questions that warrant attention.
This time around, MCA deputy president Wee is engaged in a three-cornered fight with PH candidate Liew Chin Tong, who is Johor DAP chief, and PAS's Mardi Marwan.
Another question that begs answers is: whose votes will Mardi split?
Although Mardi is not a threat to either Wee or Liew, the Ayer Hitam PAS division deputy chief, like the Malay voters in the constituency, is definitely a kingmaker.
BN believes a three-way fight will benefit Wee. Based on the assumptions that PAS will have at least 1,800 votes from its diehard supporters and Wee would receive the support of 30% of Chinese voters like he did in GE13, the support of 56% of the Malay voters is enough for him to retain the seat.
However, PH begs to differ. Its leaders believe that with Mardi splitting Malay votes and diluting the Malay support that is crucial for Wee, and providing that Liew can garner the support of 85% of Chinese votes, Wee will lose the seat should he fail to obtain the support of 70% of the Malay votes.
And while Wee is confident of retaining his traditional Malay support due to the services he has rendered to the electorate, Liew, who moved to Ayer Hitam from the relatively safe seat of Kluang, insists that a Malay tsunami is on the horizon.
The Malay areas are relatively quiet compared with the election fever felt in Chinese areas; is it a case of calm before the storm?
The jury is still out.

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