KKB by-election: Ground for Indian voters to voice dissatisfaction?

Indian votes expected to become the real kingmaker in the by-election.

06 May 2024 10:44am
The majority of young Indian voters are using social media platforms to express their dissatisfaction with Anwar and the unity government.
The majority of young Indian voters are using social media platforms to express their dissatisfaction with Anwar and the unity government.

SHAH ALAM - It is not impossible that the Kuala Kubu Baharu state assembly by-election on May 11 will become a referendum ground for Indian voters to express dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the unity government.

The public focus on whether the extent of Malay voters’ support for Perikatan Nasional (PN) during the last Selangor state election would continue to stay or whether Pakatan Harapan (PH) would continue to dominate the Chinese voters, as it had for the past three general elections.

However, many failed to realise that the support of 17.9 per cent of Indian voters, representing over 7,500 registered voters out of the total 40,226 voters in the KKB by-election, actually has the potential to become the kingmaker or determinant of the winning candidate.

Based on the demographic statistics of voters in the KKB by-election, the constituency was mixed, with originally Chinese voters forming the largest portion, but the composition had changed over the past few decades.

The Malay voters had increased from 32.7 per cent during the 13th General Election in 2013 to 49.3 per cent in the 2023 Selangor state election, while the number of Chinese voters decreased from 42.7 per cent to 30.6 per cent.

With 17.9 per cent of Indian voters, the remaining 2.1 percent were voters from other ethnic groups, including the Orang Asli.

Based on the analysis presented by former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin and former Bangi parliament member Dr Ong Kian Ming, they shared the view that the winning formula for any party was determined through figures of 90–80.

These figures meant the maximum support of 90 per cent of Chinese voters for the PH candidate as in previous Selangor state elections or the dominance of 80 per cent of Malay voters for the PN candidate.

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In simple terms, Khairy and Ong foresee that any PH or PN candidate who manages to maintain the achievement of maximum support of 90 per cent from Chinese voters or 80 per cent from Malay voters could win this fiercely contested by-election.

However, with Malay votes expected to still be split and the sentiment of Chinese voters said to be declining towards the DAP, many political observers were once again expecting Indian votes to become the real kingmaker.

This hypothesis was acknowledged by veteran political analyst Datuk M Periasamy, based on field studies conducted by him.

He agreed with the statement made by former Klang member of parliament Charles Santiago, that the PH machinery should not take lightly the potential decline in Indian voter support, which was becoming increasingly apparent.

"Some PH leaders, especially DAP, consider that nearly 80 per cent of Indian voters still favour their party's candidate, as in the previous Selangor state election.

"However, the reality at the polling stations is far different. What Charles Santiago has stated is true. Therefore, PH cannot take Indian voter sentiment lightly.

"At the grassroots level, the majority of low-income Indian communities are still dissatisfied with the commitment of the unity government and Anwar to fulfilling some of their important agendas.

"These include issues such as the quota for the placement of Indian students in the Malaysian Matriculation College as access to entry into public higher education institutions (IPTAs) remains low, the issue of the Indian Malaysian Community Transformation Unit (Mitra) which is seen as a political lobbying ground for certain leaders to garner political support, and the distribution of funds from the Maju Institute of Educational Development (MIED), which has not reached significant figures," he told Sinar Premium on Thursday.

Therefore, Periasamy felt that the possibility of the KKB by-election becoming a referendum ground for Indian voters is very high if no follow-up measures are taken by the government to ease the concerns of this segment.

"However, the presence of MIC, which is returning to help the PH machinery to some extent, can alleviate the Indian community's boycott of them.

"If MIC does not intervene, the chances for PN to win the by-election may be greater. MIC's commitment to help PH ensures that at least 1,000 pro-party Indian voters will be redirected to the DAP candidate," he said.

In addition to the three Indian community issues that have raised concerns among the segment, Charles, when contacted, acknowledged that several other local issues were often raised by Indian voters during his campaign rounds.

He said issues such as housing facilities demanded by the majority of Indian workers in several KKB constituency estates since 60 years ago, which are still unresolved, have also raised questions about whether the unity government is truly serious about advocating for the welfare of this ethnic group.

"There is information indicating that the sentiment of Indian voters rejecting the unity government is becoming increasingly debated on various social media platforms. Some even say to me that if the sentiment of young Indian voters on social media becomes the backbone, the PH candidate is potentially at risk of losing.

"I think it's not too late for Anwar and the unity government to tackle the hearts of Indian voters.

"The condition is that Anwar himself must address Indian issues directly and more seriously, while the Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amiruddin Shari, must immediately go down to the ground, be transparent, and provide some solutions to the problems faced by the Indian community in this state," he said.

Meanwhile, former Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) vice president Senator C Sivarraajh, said that the PH campaign to boycott the unity government, played by some former PH leaders, is not expected to have a significant impact on the chances of the party's candidate.

He said that this was because the Indian community did not have any better options, and the enthusiasm of PN in raising the eligibility issue of PH candidates from vernacular schools was actually indirectly reviving racial sentiments.

"The biggest challenge for the PH machinery is to ensure that Indian voters come out to vote in large numbers because the voting trend in by-elections often shows a decline in the percentage of voter turnout for each ethnic group.

"It is undeniable that the Indian community still feels the shortcomings and weaknesses of the unity government.

"However, I still believe that this ethnic group will continue to give Anwar the opportunity to fulfil his promises to the Indian community," he said.

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