GEORGE TOWN: Outstation and Indian voters have emerged as last minute factors for the four candidates seeking a win when voting commences in the Rantau state by-election at Negri Sembilan tomorrow.
With signs that at least 70% of the 20,804 registered voters have made up their mind, there is now an aggressive campaign by the candidates to woo the Indian and voters residing outside the constituency due to work and family commitments.
As Rantau is mostly a semi-rural locality, many of its young voters work away from home. There are also pockets of Indian settlements because of several plantations in the area.
The Malay and Chinese voters are said to be among those whose minds are fixed on who they are supporting.
The by-election was called after a Special Election Court ruled last November that the unopposed election of Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan of Barisan Nasional (BN) as the Rantau assemblyman was null and void.
The court ruled in favour of Pakatan Harapan (PH)’s petitioner Dr S. Streram, who filed an application to review the outcome after he was barred from contesting when it was alleged that he failed to bring a pass from the Election Commission (EC) on May 9th.
In a large constituency, spanning 16,000 ha, the four candidates are contesting over a population comprised of Malays (55%), Chinese (18%) and Indians (27%).
Mohamad, who is seeking re-election for his third term, Streram and the two independents R. Malarvizhi, a former radio presenter, who had lived in Canada for 20 years and lecturer Mohd Nor Yasin.
Mohamad is the leading contender because he was born and raised in Rantau, had served as the Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar for three terms, and is now leading Umno as its acting president, while formally holding on to the post of party deputy president.
But Streram is banking on the PH’s impressive arsenal of leaders with rumours persisting that Prime Minister and Pakatan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad may make a surprise appearance at the grand finale later tonight.
After almost two weeks of campaigning, political scientist Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian sees the Indian and outstation voters as crucial to the contest, as well as also believing that 70% of the voters had made up their mind.
These findings may not necessarily result in a high voter turnout, but often enough, the struggling working class and youths tend to vote for PH.
A higher than usual turnout may just tip the scales towards Streram, an anaesthetist, although he is relatively unknown in Rantau.
The older generation who reside in Rantau may opt for a status quo pick, which would benefit Mohamad.
“The older generation means the old Malay, Chinese and Indians. It is not a straight race issue in the election. It mirrors the Teluk Intan by-election.
”Mohamad also comes across as a person with a strong track record of helping helped the older generation in Rantau,” said Sivamurugan.
But the Universiti Sains Malaysia academician cautioned that in a by-election, anything can happen due to localised factors and sentiments.
One point raised by Dr Wong Chin Huat, a political scientist with Sunway University, was that in the last election, Rantau voters, who could not vote in the state elections, showed their support for three parties in the Rembau parliamentary contest: 49.12% for PH, 46.34% for BN and and 4.55% for PAS.
With Umno and PAS joining forces alone, Mohamad remains in the lead.
Despite the Felda and Tabung Haji monetary scandals, the Malays feel under-siege and that corruption is politically irrelevant, said Wong.
“In such a scenario, Umno and PAS will continue with their communal campaign and PH will have difficulties.”