Analysts: Pakatan likely to retain Balakong, Seri Setia with voter optimism

Danial Dzulkifly
An Election Commission officer makes final preparations at a polling centre in Sekolah Kebangsaan Sri Kelana, Petaling Jaya September 7, 2018. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) will likely win the Balakong and Seri Setia by-elections despite an expected low voter turnout, analysts said.

They cited reasons such as the still-high level of confidence towards the new administration and the belief among many that regardless who is the victor, there will be no significant changes.

“Many still want to see PH bring about change, over the Opposition as it is. However, we should not expect a high voter turnout during the polls,” Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Prof Sivamurugan Pandian told Malay Mail.

“Political fatigue is high among the constituents from the 14th general election which concluded in May. This is also compounded by the fact that polling day falls on a long weekend, meaning that many are out of town,” he said.

The Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday called on the 62,188 voters in Balakong and 50,722 voters in Seri Setia to come out and vote.

Pakatan Harapan’s Wong Siew Ki (left) and MCA's Tan Chee Teong at the nomination centre in Bangi August 18, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

The EC also expects to see a 70 per cent voter turnout for both by-elections, as compared to the 49.8 per cent turnout during the Sungai Kandis by-election on August 4.

Political analyst Prof Hoo Ke Ping said voters’ apparent unwillingness to vote for the Opposition in its “weak” condition means PH will retain the Selangor state seats.

Citing Balakong as an example, Hoo said memories of late assemblyman Eddie Ng were still strong and voters would likely support DAP’s Wong Siew Ki, who is running against MCA’s Tan Chee Teong, out of a sense of reverence for Ng.

“Although one would expect the newly-implemented Sales and Services Tax (SST) to dent PH’s popularity, it is still too early to say anything,” he said.

Merdeka Center executive director Ibrahim Suffian echoed Hoo’s sentiments, saying that Opposition candidates’ efforts to drum up sentiment against the SST were not likely to work.

“Usually, when the government enacts new taxes, there is bound to be pushback. But at the moment, we do not foresee any major tides of discontent as voters will be quite apologetic.

“The list of SST-exempted goods is much longer and comprehensive than the former Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is perceived to be less burdensome,” he said.

Pakatan Harapan’s Halimey Abu Bakar (left) and PAS’ Dr Halimah Ali, at the nomination centre in MBPJ Civic Centre in Petaling Jaya August 18, 2018. —Picture by Hari Anggara

Speaking about Seri Setia that will see a straight fight between PAS’ Dr Halimah Ali and PKR’s Halimey Abu Bakar, political analyst Azmi Hassan said there was a better sense of cooperation between Umno and PAS as they have learned from the Sungai Kandis by-election.

Barisan Nasional (BN) lost Sungai Kandis in a straight fight against PH, as PAS chose to sit out the election.

“The cooperation in Seri Setia is much more solid compared to Sungai Kandis and this will be beneficial for both parties if and only if the PAS candidate can reduce the majority won by PKR in GE14,” he said.

Ibrahim, however, cautioned that only time will be the true gauge as to whether both parties will benefit from each other.

“There was speculation on the ground that PAS voters in Sungai Kandis did not come out to vote for the Umno candidate. This time around, we are not sure whether Umno voters would come out and vote for PAS.

“Only time will tell whether supporters from each party will reciprocate support in terms of voting for one another,” he said.

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