By-election: A PH victory important indicator for Unity Govt - analysts

07 Sep 2023 10:41pm
Image for illustrative purposes only. – BERNAMA
Image for illustrative purposes only. – BERNAMA

JOHOR BAHRU - Candidates competing for the Pulai parliamentary seat and Simpang Jeram state seat have less than 48 hours left to convince voters with their campaign promises.

The election machinery's efficiency is crucial, especially for fence-sitting voters. Hence, the party that can successfully translate this into votes will be the 'winner', addressing all the questions and issues raised throughout the ongoing by-election campaign since Aug 26.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia National and Social Welfare political analyst and Associate Professor Dr Mohd Azhar Abd Hamid said a victory for PH would serve as a crucial indicator for the Unity Government (PH).

Expressing confidence in PH's ability to maintain its victory in Pulai, he said both PH and Barisan Nasional (BN) have learned from their weaknesses in the recent state election results.

"In the recent six state elections, there was a lack of cooperation between PH and BN... It seemed as though Umno was unable to leverage its strength to mobilise voters.

"The situation in Johor is unique because Umno has its roots there, and in the recent state elections, Umno won 40 out of 56 seats. Wherever both PH and BN campaign machineries were present, it signals cooperation," Mohd Azhar said.

Meanwhile, political analyst Professor Datuk Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said winning both seats, even if they belong to Amanah, could provide moral legitimacy for the Unity Government.

"Regardless of the by-election results, it won't change the political landscape, but it raises questions about moral legitimacy,” said the Universiti Sains Malaysia analyst.

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The way votes are translated depends on how effective campaign workers are at making sure voters choose the party without being swayed by opposing issues, Sivamurugan added.

He noted that PN's narrative about reducing seats affecting the federal government's majority is clear, but voters are now paying closer attention to the parties' behaviour.

"The key is for the PH-BN machinery to ensure a high voter turnout. There might be divisions among Malay voters, so the non-Malay voter percentage will be crucial.

"So, what's important is to ensure a high voter turnout, minimise protest votes, and convince fence-sitting voters to support PH-BN. These next 48 hours are extremely crucial," he said.

There is no dispute over the selection of the PH candidate, as the Pulai candidate Suhaizan Kaiat is close to the late Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub. This connection evokes emotions and sympathy among those who want to continue the late leader's work, Sivamurugan added.

Political analyst Mujibu Abd Muis said issues raised by PN during the campaign, such as Malay privileges, citizenship, and the High Court's decision regarding Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, are not expected to have a significant impact on the campaign.

"The question is, who will gain from these issues, whether PN can sway Malay voters or secure their votes, and how much these issues can motivate or inspire voters.

"During the Johor state election, non-Malay voter turnout was low. We see a similar trend in this by-election. Chinese voters appear to be a bit tactical and rational. It's crucial for PH to mobilise non-Malay voters and also secure votes from Umno supporters," he said.

Voter turnout percentage would play a crucial role in PH's potential victory, particularly in the Pulai seat, added Mujibu, who is also a research fellow at the Ilham Centre and senior lecturer in Political Science at the Faculty of Administrative Science and Policy Studies, Universiti Teknologi Mara.

"PH has a good chance of retaining the Pulai seat," he said adding that PN's focus on winning the Simpang Jeram seat is to reinforce their narrative that Malays are rejecting BN and UMNO if they succeed.

Throughout the by-election campaign, PN has primarily focused on Simpang Jeram, where its candidate, Dr Mohd Mazri Yahya from Pas, leveraging his expertise as a medical specialist to engage with voters.

According to the Election Commission (EC), Pulai has 166,653 voters. Among them, 44.18 per cent (73,619 voters) are Malay, 40.46 per cent (67,434) are Chinese, 12.31 per cent (20,508) are Indian, and 3.06 per cent (5,092) belong to other ethnicities.

Meanwhile in Simpang Jeram, there are 40,379 voters with 51.87 per cent (20,946) Malays, 44.6 per cent (18,010) Chinese, 2.53 per cent (1,022) Indians, and other ethnicities make up 0.99 per cent (401). - BERNAMA