KKB by-election: Demographic factors still crucial

Malaysia's political power still depends on voters, local issues, and the ‘bread and butter’ rewards that would be addressed.

NURUL NABILA AHMAD HALIMY
NURUL NABILA AHMAD HALIMY
30 Apr 2024 12:41pm
PH candidate representing the unity government, Pang Sock Tao (centre), completes the submission of candidate nomination forms for the KKB by-election at the District Multipurpose Hall and Sports Complex in Hulu Selangor on Saturday.
PH candidate representing the unity government, Pang Sock Tao (centre), completes the submission of candidate nomination forms for the KKB by-election at the District Multipurpose Hall and Sports Complex in Hulu Selangor on Saturday.
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SHAH ALAM - The demographic factor still plays a crucial role in the Kuala Kubu Baharu (KKB) state assembly by-election, as Malaysian politics are still dominated by an increasing Malay voter population of over 45 per cent.

Universiti Malaya Political Science Department Public Administration and Development Studies senior lecturer Dr Mohammad Tawfik Yaakub said the demographics remained relevant because Malaysia's political power still depends on voters, local issues, and the ‘bread and butter’ rewards that the people would get.

Tawfik
Tawfik

"I see that this situation can influence the political strategies that will be used by candidates and parties contesting the election.

"There is still plenty of time for the candidates to pass through and they must win political perceptions among the target voters. The competition of political perceptions is the most effective weapon that can change the voting pattern of voters in Kuala Kubu Baharu this time," he told Sinar Premium.

Based on Tawfik's assessment and observation on the ground, both Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) were engaged in fierce competition and found it difficult to consistently state that there was only one strong coalition in the KKB state assembly.

"I even anticipate that if PN or PH wins, their vote majority is only below 1,000 votes.

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"I see the PH candidate leading, but this assessment is still too early because the campaigning period for this first week has only entered the third day," he said.

Tawfik also agreed with PN's decision to choose a candidate from Bersatu instead of Gerakan as a change of strategy to strengthen the Malay support base rather than attract Chinese voters.

"Bersatu's decision to field a Malay candidate is a good political strategy to gain support from the majority of ethnic voters when there is an increase in Malay voters and a decrease in Chinese voters.

"Bersatu, through PN, realises that this is an opportunity for them to capitalise on hot issues involving Malay Muslims that are currently making waves in the country, such as the boycott of KK Super Mart convenience stores, Housing and Local Government Minister (KPKT) Nga Kor Ming's effort in recognition of Chinese New Village and the use of the term 'kafir' by Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek," he explained.

The KKB by-election would be held following the death of KKB assemblyman Lee Kee Hiong, 58, on March 21 after several years of battling cancer.

The Election Commission (EC) has set the polling day for May 11, while candidate nomination is on April 27 and early voting is on May 7.

However, the KKB state assembly has seen changes in ethnic voter percentages since three elections, namely the 14th General Election (GE14), GE15 and the Selangor state election in 2023.

The change in the Chinese voter demographic recorded during Lee’s victory in GE14 was 42.7 per cent and has since decreased to 30 per cent in GE15.

Additionally, there had been an increase in Malay votes from 32.7 per cent (GE14) to 49.3 per cent in the 2023 state election.

Meanwhile, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia Core Studies Centre associate professor Dr Mohd Azmir Mohd Nizah believed that as long as there was no change in the structure and complexity of society, ethnic factors were very important in the political context.

Azmir
Azmir

"Surely demographic factors are important for the complex political competition in Malaysia. This demographic does not change drastically, but changes in voter paradigms and mentalities are seen as the main factors.

"For example, the issue of underdeveloped Indian communities is considered one of the factors leading to a campaign not to vote for PH among Indian communities. However, votes may not necessarily change to PN," he said.

He further added that if issues such as economic sluggishness, price hikes, and matters related to Malay and indigenous aspirations become the main agenda for candidates in campaigning, they can change the voter paradigm.

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