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Semenyih, an indicator of Malay politics

  • There are downside factors for PPBM in Semenyih, including the declining credibility of the PH government and the alleged fake degree of deputy foreign minister Marzuki Yahya.

Sin Chew Daily

The upcoming Semenyih by-election is clouded by a host of issues, including the fake degree scandal and the RM90 million donation received by PAS.

It looks like parties on both sides of the political divide are poised to harp on these issues and more.

Like a football match, the Semenyih by-election is the second half game, with Umno-PAS taking a 1-0 lead over PH in the first half in Cameron Highlands. By all means PH must score in the second half in order not to be overrun by Umno-PAS' rising momentum.

Umno must not lose in Cameron Highlands as it is its traditional stronghold. Similarly, PH and PPBM must not be defeated in Semenyih.

There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, Selangor is the political base of PH and the coalition has been ruling there for more than a decade now. In the 2018 general elections, PH swept 51 of the 56 state seats, leaving BN and PAS with only four and one respectively.

Selangor voters have been strongly supportive of PH and by all means PH must not give Umno-PAS the slightest chance to make a comeback in the state. PH must drive PAS out of the state to its east coast home ground.

Secondly, Semenyih has 68% Malay voters, and PPBM must not lose this battle that defines the party's support among the Malays. It must prove that it too can represent the Malays and even make a better choice than Umno or PAS. Failing to earn the trust of Malays means the party will face an uphill crisis in the next general elections.

PPBM won six state seats in GE14 thanks to a powerful anti-establishment sentiment against the then BN administration. With Umno and PAS now joining forces to challenge PH, PPBM's strength is put to real test.

PPBM will come under additional pressure if Umno-PAS unexpectedly win the by-election. So, the party is not going to take things too easily and its leaders have been seen working hard in Semenyih for some time now.

Thirdly, the by-election outcome will affect PM Mahathir's reputation and dignity. He has suffered a minor setback for not being able to win the hearts of Malay voters despite his personal appearance in Cameron Highlands.

He must not be defeated again by the "robbers" he called.

Mahathir's charm has started to go downhill in recent months. He is no longer the darling of social media users. In its stead, Najib has managed to draw some attention with his regular online remarks. The prime minister can never tolerate his defeated predecessor to seize a second chance.

Indeed, PPBM has an edge because of the utmost abhorrence of Selangor folks towards the 1MDB scandal. While Najib has tried very hard to defend his acts, this is not going to work among urban voters.

The other PH parties are bound to rally behind the PM. As Mahathir's heir apparent, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim must support PPBM to a bid to show unity within the ruling coalition.

Selangor's former menteri besar, economic affairs minister Azmin Ali will also go all out to campaign for PPBM's candidate to display his loyalty to Tun Mahathir.

Additionally, after PAS president Hadi Awang's out-of-court reconciliation with Sarawak Report editor-in-chief Clare Rewcastle Brown, new allegations keep popping up, including big cash offered by Najib.

While the RM90 million bribe is not going to shatter die-hard fans' faith in PAS, it will nevertheless tarnish the party's credibility.

Not all PAS members are receptive to an Umno-PAS tie-up. PPBM will be able to make it again this time if not all PAS supporters vote for Umno. If the combined Malay votes of Umno-PAS do not exceed those won by PPBM, the 17% Chinese and 14% Indian voters in Semenyih should help PPBM sail past its opponents in a breeze.

That said, there are downside factors for PPBM too, including the declining credibility of the PH government and the alleged fake degree of deputy foreign minister Marzuki Yahya.

In addition, urban residents are also facing financial pressure thanks to a sluggish domestic economy, while the new government fails to address their problems and honor its own election pledges.

The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) is poised to dilute the votes and will emerge as an alternative for voters unhappy with the PH government, especially among the Chinese and Indians.

Umno-PAS may score again this time in picking a more acceptable candidate. Their Muslim-orangasli candidate in Cameron Highlands appealed to both Muslim and orangasli voters there. This time, they may field the pro-PAS former Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim in an attempt to win over swing votes with his popularity and track records.

Even though Semenyih by-election only involves a state seat, it is a yardstick to gauge the political trends of the Malays.

If PPBM wins it big, PH will have boosted confidence in the handling of racial issues. And if Umno-PAS surprisingly take the seat, the PH government may have to come up with more intense pro-bumi policies in order to wrest the Malay support from the opposition.


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