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A 50:50 race

  • The voter sentiment takes a slow course to develop to what it is today, beginning from the provisional deregistration of PPBM on the eve of parliament dissolution. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Sin Chew Daily

According to the latest Merdeka Center survey as of May 1, the support rating of BN on Peninsular Malaysia fell from 53% to 51.2% in only three weeks' time, while that of PH rose from 20% to 27.8% and PAS from 27% down to 20.9%.

In the meantime, the support rating of PH among Chinese voters went up from 85% to 85.3% as BN's fell marginally from 15% to 14.7% and PAS' remained under 1%.

Overall, BN's popular vote on Peninsular Malaysia stood at 40.3%, vis-à-vis PH's 43.7% and PAS' 16%.

Former finance minister Daim Zainuddin predicted that PH could retain the Penang and Selangor state administrations while capturing Kedah and Perak. He also predicted a 50-50 race for Johor and Sabah.

In both estimates, it is believed that an anti-establishment sentiment is emerging in the Malay society. Rural areas and Felda settlements used to be Umno strongholds while Sarawak, Johor and Sabah are BN's fixed deposit states.

With this once invincible fortress showing signs of cracks, BN's hold in Sabah and Johor becomes shaky, with possibly the only exception of Sarawak, thanks to the interior areas and longhouse settlements.

PH wants to make inroads into Umno's fortress and win over the hearts of more rural Malays. There are a few ways this can be achieved.

1. The influence of Tun Mahathir, the country's prime minister of 22 years, in the Malay society has been generally underestimated. Rural Malays who used to vote only for Umno begin to think differently now.

2. GST has brought tremendous financial burden to the people; even those in rural areas (low to middle income groups) begin to feel the pinch, especially in view of declining rubber and palm oil prices.

3. Mahathir's strategy against PAS and Hadi Awang has paid off. Tun Mahathir tells the Malay voters: A vote for PAS is equivalent to a vote for BN. This has lured many a PAS supporter towards PH. Merdeka Center program director Ibrahim Suffian has said Malay voters who used to support PAS are turning towards PH now, widening further the gap between the two camps' support rating.

4. Nik Omar, the eldest son of the late PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz, will run in Chempaka state assembly seat in Kelantan under a PH ticket.

5. The support of PH from Umno veterans Daim Zainuddin, Rais Yatim and Rafidah Aziz has begun to impact the Umno grassroots.

6. In addition to massive rallies and ceramahs, PH also harnesses the social media to launch its assaults against the ruling coalition. Some 62,000 people watched Mahathir's speech in Putrajaya on Facebook live.

PH is now planning a Facebook live telecast of Mahathir's address to the nation on the eve of the polling day on Tuesday.

PH's popularity has been rising steadily since the start of the campaign period, and its support rating among Malay voters climbed from 20% on April 9 to 27.8% on May 1. This number is anticipated to rise further over the next few days barring unforeseen circumstances.

As a matter of fact, the voter sentiment takes a slow course to develop to what it is today beginning from the provisional deregistration of PPBM prior to the dissolution of the Parliament, to the disqualification of Tian Chua on the April 28 nomination day, Tun Mahathir's sensational video and the clipping of his images on election banners, among other things. All these have evoked immeasurable pubic fury against BN.

Sure enough there have been other incidents such as verbal attacks against MCA candidates, an old MCA member being pushed down the stage by a PH supporter, Jamal's cash distribution campaign, sex scandal allegation against Mat Sabu, etc. However, these incidents do not seem to affect the overall sentiment.

To counter the allegations from PH, 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda has launched a nationwide tour to explain the situation while Lee Chong Wei was seen busily campaigning for BN candidates.

Meanwhile, Umno seems to be not doing much during the campaign period. Perhaps the candidates have gone down to the rural areas in a bid to consolidate the party's grip of this strong support base.

Whoever wins the elections, it is undeniable that to Umno, significant damage has been done as cracks have appeared in its once powerful fortresses while its leaders suffer irreversible damage of their credibility.

A two-party system is here to stay, for sure!


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