Four days into Tanjung Piai campaign, PH and BN candidates pull ahead

Zainal Epi
Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional flags line a road in Sungai Rembah, Pontian November 4, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

COMMENTARY, Nov 5 — Two of the Tanjung Piai by-election candidates —Pakatan Harapan's (PH) Karmaine Sardini and Barisan Nasional's (BN) Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng — have been hitting the campaign trail hard since nomination day.

Both have not had fewer than seven meet-ups and ceramahs each — from 7am right up to midnight — which makes for a hectic schedule; this shows the importance of the seat to both sides of the political divide.

As voting is just 10 days away, the fast-paced campaign has turned up the temperature in Tanjung Piai. 

National issues do not seem to take centrestage in the meet-the-candidate sessions as both candidates look relaxed and at home with the locals.

After all, both need no formal introduction and local issues seem to be the priority here. 

Talk of race and religion which dominates the national conversation do not seem to affect the 53,000-odd voters here as they are more concerned with their daily bread and butter issues.

Young voters comprising some 45 per cent of the population have no time to ponder over such issues as the majority of them work in Singapore and Johor Baru, which is just 60 kilometres away while the remaining continue to work in fishing and oil palm plantations like their parents.

The older voters keep their choices to themselves as they already know who to vote and there is no need to tell.

The by-election sees a political match between veteran politicians who were on same side before last year’s general election but went their separate ways after that.

At present, Karmaine who is well known among the 57 per cent Malay voters as an imam is facing Wee who served one term as an assemblyman for Pekan Nenas and two terms as MP for Tanjung Piai until last year.

Karmaine, despite being a politician at division level, is not well known to the Chinese community and is not one who can be  considered a good speaker at ceramahs.

On the other hand, Wee is articulate and can talk about all sorts of issues.

Furthermore Wee is known as a helpful and generous person who directly contributed his services to his constituents which they openly acknowledge even now.

Karmaine seems to have an uphill task to defend the seat for PH; he will have to fall back on the deeds done by the late incumbent Dr Md Farid Md Rafik who was well liked by local Malays.

Thus this by-election sees voters choosing between two local men who offer their services with little thought on political ideologies.

Other candidates — Gerakan's Wendy Subramaniam, Berjasa president Datuk Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz, Independents Ang Chuan Lock and Faridah Aryani Abdul Ghani — do not seem to offer much of a fight for the other two.

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