By Aathi Shankar
Tanjung Piai by-election in Johor will see 6 candidates flexing their political muscles for the next two weeks to wrest control of the parliamentary constituency.
Among the candidates, Pakatan Harapan’s Karmaine Sardini from Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s party, PPBM, was first to file his candidacy papers in Dewan Jubli Intan Sultan Ibrahim at Jalan Dewan when nominations opened at 9am today, Saturday, November 2, 2019.
Karmaine nearest rival will be Barisan Nasional’s Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng from MCA.
Others are lawyer Wendy Subramaniam, 38, from Gerakan, Berjasa president Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz a 56-year-old corporate man, and independents – private sector executive Faridah Aryani Abdul Ghaffar, 43, and tuition master Ang Chuan Lock, 49.
PPBM’s Tanjung Piai division chief, Karmaine, 66, should start as the pre-election favourite.
However, he is being expected to face a stiff test from Jeck Seng, 55, who will not be a pushover.
Being the former two-term former Tanjung Piai MP and Pekan Nenas one-term assemblyman, and the constituency’s MCA division chief, Jeck Seng is contesting in familiar ground.
He needs no introduction to the voters.
The by-election was forced by the death of incumbent MP Datuk Dr Md Farid Md Rafik, 42, on September 21, 2019.
In the 14th General Election (GE14) Jeck Seng lost to the late Md Farid of PPBM by 524 votes.
The Tanjung Piai constituency has 52,978 voters made of majority Malays 57%, Chinese 41.4% and the rest Indians.
The seat is among the most racially balanced parliamentary constituency in the country, thus a litmus test for both PH and BN to gauge their political popularity.
The by-election’s 280 early voters will cast their ballot papers on November 12 while the main polling day is on November 16.
P.165 Tanjung Piai contest will be the 9th by-election in the country since GE14.
The previous by-elections were Sungai Kandis state seat (August 4, 2018); Balakong and Seri Setia state seats (September 8, 2018); Port Dickson parliamentary seat (October 13, 2018); Cameron Highlands parliamentary seat (January 26, 2019), Semenyih state seat (March 2, 2019, Rantau state seat (March 30, 2019); and Sandakan parliamentary seat (May 11, 2019).
Although certain segments of Umno grassroots seem dead against MCA candidature in Tanjung Piai, the Malay party leadership, demonstrating political maturity and wisdom, had concurred with BN’s consensus to pick Jeck Seng.
BN’s collective decision clearly made a mockery out of DAP-PH’s political propaganda that the newly forged Umno-PAS political cooperation will turn Malaysia into a Taliban state.
Umno of late had been going all out to regain its lost Malay electorate grounds via a strong working tie with Islamist party, PAS.
But the Malay nationalist party again demonstrated to Malaysians that when it comes to the crunch, it will not abandon interests of other races and religions in the country.
BN showed yet again that the coalition was for all Malaysians
Jeck Seng’s candidature underlined that BN spirit and unity.
However, certain negative elements are currently trying to derail Jeck Seng’s campaign by calling on Umno grassroots in Tanjung Piai to either vote for PH candidate or boycott the by-election altogether.
These unscrupulous characters, perhaps pretending to be Umno members, have been using the social media to condemn the choice of an MCA candidate, claiming that BN’s loss in GE14 was caused mainly by Chinese voters.
They also claim that MCA did not do enough to secure Chinese voters in GE14, hence “no to an MCA candidacy”.
These social media commentators have argued that only a Malay candidate from Umno can win Tanjung Piai.
They are claiming that at least 90% Malays in Tanjung Piai will vote for an Umno candidate!
One can’t rule out the possibility that all these negative comments could be a ploy by PH, particularly PPBM’s machinery, to hoodwink Malay voters through malicious lies and racist propaganda to vote against BN’s Jeck Seng.
Such negative comments have given rise a suspicion that BN’s various social media groups in Facebook and Whatsapp could be infiltrated by disguised PH supporters.
BN leadership and supporters should be leery of these dubious characters in their political circles.
They should be wiped out before they damage the whole machinery.
Tanjung Piai by-election will be an ideal field for BN to test its own multi-racial credentials in a balanced mixed constituency since GE14.
All the three parties in BN – Umno, MCA and MIC, together with PAS shall use the by-election to show that their political block presents the best solution for the betterment of Malaysia.
Moreover, it won’t be the end of the world if BN loses in Tanjung Piai.
Ideally, Tanjung Piai can be the best electorate battle for BN campaigners to learn the best political formulas and strategies to win mixed constituencies in GE15.
If BN can free itself from saboteurs and execute an effective campaign strategy, Jeck Seng has a good chance to recapture his lost Tanjung Piai on Nov 16.