Ilham Centre: BN will win back Tanjung Piai with Chinese vote shift

Children walk by a Barisan National banner at Kampung Air Masin in Kukup November 3, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Children walk by a Barisan National banner at Kampung Air Masin in Kukup November 3, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — Barisan Nasional (BN) will win back the Tanjung Piai parliamentary constituency, which was once the party’s fort, with Chinese votes expected to shift away from Pakatan Harapan (PH), think-tank Ilham Centre predicted.

In its observation report leading to the said prediction, the centre said that PH’s win in the 14th general election in Johor last year was in fact contributed predominantly by the issues surrounding former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and was not linked to Umno’s performance in Johor.

“The fall of Johor (to PH) that i the birth place and strongest fort of Umno, was contributed by factors in Putrajaya, and not because of the leadership in Johor.

“Our research shows a high approval rating towards the leadership of Khaled Nordin, who was Johor mentri besar at that time. The achievement, progress and track record of Umno Johor was at an excellent level. The only problem here was Najib Razak’s image, which caused Johor BN to be punished,” the report written by Mohd Azlan Zainal, Mohd Jalaluddin Hashim, Mohd Yusri Ibrahim and Associate Prof Hamidin Abd Hamid said.

They pointed out that the shift in votes towards PH therefore, was merely owing to the mood for change based on “critical factors”, while their party loyalty remained with BN.

The think-tank also cautioned that such a voting pattern is very fragile, and would not remain in PH’s favour.

The researchers predicted that Chinese voters would also revert to BN, after their field study of voters mood in Tanjung Piai, adding that the shift would happen mainly due to the dismal performance of PH in keeping to its election manifesto promises.

The report said that 59.1 per cent felt that the PH government failed to fulfill its election manifesto, while 59 per cent were unsatisfied with the federal government’s performance, with 53 per cent who felt that the Johor government’s performance was unsatisfactory.

As much as 60 per cent of those surveyed felt that cost of living is now higher than during BN’s governance.

It added that in the 14th general election in Tanjung Piai, it said that PH also only won in 11 voting districts, out the 27, with BN winning 16 others. It added that the districts won by PH, had predominantly ethnic Chinese voters, or a mix of races, while BN won the Malay-majority areas.

“The triumph of the PH candidate before this in the 14th general election, was contributed by the three-way battle between BN, PH and PAS. By way of a simple math, PH was actually left out by 1,902 votes, even before the battle began. In other words, Tanjung Piai is a BN stronghold even before it was created,” the report added.

Ilham Centre said that the late incumbent, Datuk Dr Md Farid Md Rafik also won, because of the 42 per cent ethnic Chinese voters in Tanjung Piai.

Karmaine Sardini is the underdog

The findings said that BN candidate Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng, despite being an ethnic Chinese Opposition party member, is more popular compared to PH’s choice of a Malay candidate, Karmaine Sardini.

Ilham Centre credits this to Wee’s past experience, as he was already a regular in the area with good rapport with the residents of Tanjung Piai since the 90’s.

The report said that Karmaine, despite representing the ruling party in the state and the federal government, and with a background as a mosque imam and an architect, fails to outshine Wee, as he is seen as too ‘low profile’, unlike Wee.

“Wee Jeck Seng has been bonding with the people of Tanjung Piai since the 1990’s, as the then aide to former MCA president, Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, who served as MP for Tanjung Piai and Pontian.

“Respondents (75 per cent) also said that Wee has higher credibility compared to other candidates. Karmaine Sardini meanwhile, only received voters’ confidence rate of 24 per cent.

“Our qualitative findings also show that the BN candidate is more efficient in helping those affected by hardships, such as aid during typhoon, house fire and various others in just a short span of time, which got the people here talking about them,” the report added.

It said that Wee’s only shortcoming is the Opposition party he represents, which lacks resources and with Umno’s election machinery not fully behind him, helping in the by-election campaigns.

However, these shortcomings it said, are minor factors which does not affect Wee’s credibility.

Irony: PH playing up racial issues, unlike PAS, BN

The report said that an ironic point which has been displayed during the campaigns, is the lack of racial politics by Islamist party PAS and BN, which is led by its Malay-majority lynchpin party, Umno.

“When it comes to campaigning, one irony is when BN and their ally in the National Pact (Muafakat Nasional) that is PAS, not playing up racial issues, while PH is seen as attempting to play up these issues in their campaign series,” the report said.

It added that though PH’s election machinery is more organised compared to that in previous by-elections, it however, “failed to learn” from past experiences, and is still working in silos, and not as a united front.

“Even in this by-election, machineries of PH’s component parties are still practicing the silo campaigns,” it added.

The report said that Gerakan and Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (Berjasa) meanwhile, are canvassing in ethnic Chinese and Malay-dominant areas respectively.

“As a political party, Berjasa and Gerakan have their machinery strength, though most of them are outside parties,” it added.

Ilham Centre said that should a shift in ethnic Chinse votes happen, it is a “great slap” to PH, which is already affected by protest elements, owing to its performance as the both the state federal governments.

However, it said that such a shift should also not be construed as an endorsement from Tanjung Piai voters, of BN and PAS’ Nasional Pact alliance.

The Tanjung Piai constituency is a Malay majority seat and has 52,978 voters, including 280 early voters. Malays comprise 57 per cent of the voters while the Chinese comprise 41.4 per cent with the remaining made up of Indian voters.

The Tanjung Piai by-election is the eight since the 14th general election (GE14). By-elections have been held for the Rantau state seat (March 30); Sungai Kandis state seat (August 4 last year); Balakong and Seri Setia state seats (September 8 last year); Port Dickson parliamentary seat (October 13 last year); Cameron Highlands parliamentary seat (January 26) and Semenyih state seat (March 2).

Polling in the Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election will be held on November 16 with early voting held on Tuesday..

The by-election was triggered after incumbent, Dr Md Farid died of heart complications on September 21.

He won the seat in the previous general election after he defeated BN’s Wee and PAS’s Nordin Othman in a three-way contest.

The seat has been traditionally contested by MCA and DAP since 2004. In 2018, DAP ceded the seat to Bersatu to contest under its PH campaign.