At the mention of an election campaign, what comes to mind to most people is a war of flags, poster and banners of the contesting parties all over the place – adding colour and excitement to the occasion.
However, that is not the situation in the Slim state constituency, which is having a by-election soon. It is pretty quiet there, despite today being the eighth day of campaign.
All three candidates contesting in the by-election — Tanjung Malim UMNO Mohd Zaidi Aziz chief and two Independent candidates, lawyer Amir Khusyairi Mohamad Tanusi and former teacher, S. Santharasekaran — seemed to prefer interpersonal communication with the constituents.
They prefer holding small-scale “ceramah” (political talk) and going to the ground to visit constituents, as well as using the social media to campaign, like through Facebook, Instagram and the WhatsApp applications.
The approach is also in response to the Election Commission’s (EC) recommendation for them to comply with the prescribed standard operating procedures (SOP) to curb the spread of COVID-19 during their campaign.
Deputy Director of the Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Associate Prof Dr Kartini Aboo Talib, regarded the war of posters and flags in election campaign as something from the “old school”.
“Even without the poster war, the people know that there is an election campaign going on, voting will take place, the situation may not seem lively on the ground, but lively in digital form, and this we have to accept as a new normal,” she told Bernama.
However, a check by Bernama found certain areas had campaign materials of the candidates, like in Slim River, Felda Besout and Trolak and mostly by BN.
Independent candidate Amir Khusyairi, who uses the tree symbol, has little campaign materials, while Santharasekaran, who is using the book symbol, has no flag or poster for his campaign.
Santharasekaran, when met by the media, said he was focused on digital campaign and wanted to avoid wastage.
In terms of campaigning, Mohd Zaidi, seems more active, with BN and UMNO leaders helping him in the campaign.
Among those who went to the ground to help campaign for Mohd Zaidi were Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob; MCA president Wee Ka Siong, Minister of Higher Education who is also UMNO Women Chief Noraini Ahmad and UMNO deputy president Datuk Mohamad Hasan.
Amir Khusyairi’s campaign saw him getting help from several supporters of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad such as Mukhriz Mahathir, Maszlee Malik and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, as well as PH leaders including Amanah vice-president Mujahid Yusof.
As for Santharasekaran, he moves around in small group and accompanied by friends.
The Slim by-election is called following the death of its four-term assemblyman Datuk Mohd Khusairi Abdul Talib, of BN, who died of a heart attack on July 15.
The EC has set next Tuesday for early voting, which will involve 277 voters, consisting of police personnel and their spouses, while another 22,815 ordinary voters will be going to the polls on Aug 29.
The Slim state constituency, covering 510 sq km, has 13 Voting District Centres (PDM). – BERNAMA