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The comeback wars of MCA and PAS

  • MCA should count its blessings if it manages to retain its deposit this time round, and even this will very much depend on the sympathy votes from Balakong voters. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

By LIM SUE GOAN
Sin Chew Daily

More than a hundred days after Pakatan Harapan took over the helm at Putrajaya, the twin by-elections in Balakong and Seri Setia will be a major test for the ruling coalition contesting under the PH logo for the first time.

As Selangor is a strong fortress for the ruling coalition, PH is expected to win comfortably in these two by-elections.

That said, the by-elections should serve as a yardstick to gauge the pubic's approval of the new government.

First of all, the attitude of Chinese voters. Up to 95% of Chinese Malaysians voted for PH in GE14 in hope of overthrowing the rotten BN government.

The Balakong by-election should become a good litmus test to reflect the mood of Chinese voters. The incumbent rep, DAP's Eddie Ng won with an impressive 35,538-vote majority while MCA and PAS candidates both lost their deposits.

The higher the expectations, the bigger the disappointment could get, and the sentiment has now cooled down considerably. According to the latest Merdeka Center survey, the percentage of respondents who felt that the country was on the right track grew from 38% in April to 64% in May, and the percentage of respondents thinking that the country was on the wrong course fell from 54% to only 12%. However, only 55% felt the country was on the right track in August, and 24% believed the country was on the wrong course.

63% of Chinese Malaysians thought that the country was on the right track, down from 69%.

Meanwhile, 79% of Chinese were happy with the new government, 70% satisfied with Mahathir's performance. However, only 41% of non-Malays were happy with education minister Maszlee Malik, and this shows that majority of Chinese Malaysians are still very much concerned about the recognition of UEC certificate.

The PH government has performed satisfactorily in corruption-fighting, democratization and systemic reform, but lacks an effective economic stimulus solution. The modest 4.5% Q2 GDP growth was anything but moral-boosting, and this might impact the turnout of Chinese voters in the upcoming by-elections.

Sure enough we cannot rule out the fact that DAP has a massive cache of die-hard supporters in Balakong and the turnout is expected to see an improvement over the 49.4% registered in Sungai Kandis. The majority, nonetheless, is poised to decline.

Secondly, will MCA's effort in supervising the new government resonate with the voters in Balakong? MCA only managed to cling on to its last remaining parliamentary seat in GE14. While Ayer Hitam MP Wee Ka Siong has been working very hard to monitor the new government, his party has done very little to reform itself, not to mention its failure to conduct a thorough soul-searching over the many irregularities of the former BN administration.

MCA cannot just sit on the fence and do nothing over the tie-up between Umno and PAS because the party still needs the BN to take up exco positions in BN-ruled states as well as senatorial posts.

Even though MCA will contest under its own logo for the first time, this cannot overturn the fact that the party is still very much a component of BN. PAS president Hadi Awang's call to party members to support MCA's candidate in Balakong will only further infuriate the Chinese voters there.

PH won the overwhelming support of voters while it was opposition because the BN administration was utterly rotten. So long as PH is doing a not too bad job this time, MCA's role as a government watchdog is not expected to win it more support from the voters. MCA should count its blessings if it manages to retain its deposit this time round, and even this will very much depend on the sympathy votes from Balakong voters.

As for Seri Setia, it will test PAS' ability to make a mark outside of its East Coast stronghold.

PAS lost most of its parliamentary seats in several West Coast states in GE14. The party only managed to hold on to one of the 15 state seats in Selangor it last won, showing that the party has not consolidated its presence in Selangor despite having been a part of the ruling coalition for ten years.

PAS has been playing up racial and religious issues after GE14, but it is impossible for the voters in Selangor to support an opposition party that upholds such a backward mentality. PH should win additional 10% Malay votes in the next general elections so long as it fixes the economy.

The Seri Setia by-election will also test the public acceptance of Umno-PAS cooperation. In the recent Sungai Kandis by-election, some of the PAS members did not vote for Umno. So, Umno members may not vote for PAS this time, even if their leaders have urged them to support PAS in Seri Setia.

After Umno failed to win the elections by creating three-cornered fights in GE14, it now pins its hopes on its tie-up with PAS. But, with Umno now losing its two fixed deposit states in East Malaysia, it is very hard for the party to make a significant comeback by counting on the 117 predominantly Malay rural constituencies in Peninsular Malaysia.

 

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