COMMENTARY, Aug 24 — For independent candidate Amir Khusyairi Mohamad Tanusi, support from Slim’s minority Chinese and Indian voters is crucial for him and for his newly-founded party Pejuang to establish themselves politically.
With five days to go till polling this Saturday, Amir Khusyairi may be looking at losing his electoral deposit if he does not succeed in getting the 11 per cent Chinese (or about 2,500) voters in the Perak state constituency to cast their ballots on August 29.
Based on racial demographic trends in the GE14, the Malay voters in the seat who had voted for Bersatu are likely to side with Barisan Nasional, seeing as both are now on the same side.
However, word is that an estimate 1,500 of the Chinese voters may not even go out on polling day, based on the recent changes in the country’s political landscape that saw the birth of Pejuang, a Bersatu splinter party from a faction loyal to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which is choosing independence instead of allying itself with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Opposition pact.
For Amir Khusyairi, getting the Malay vote has been a tough affair for the past one week.
Winning support from the Chinese would be even harder as the community perceives no change in the state government or to their economic welfare regardless of who wins the by-election.
The race to win over Slim’s near 3,000 Indian voters has been a close one for both Amir Khusyairi and his rival Mohamad Zaidi Aziz, even though the latter may appear to have the advantage with assistance from BN’s Indian-based components: MIC, IPF, and Makkal Sakti.
Mohamad Zaidi may appear to have things under control, but there is concern that he may not win even 300 votes from the Chinese.
However, the BN hopeful has been optimistic and is aiming for 600 Chinese votes and 1,200 Indian votes in this by-election.
The Indian voters appear to be sitting on the fence amid the political leadership conflicts involving PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Pejuang founder Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. At the moment, it appears PKR is keeping its distance from Pejuang due to a trust deficit.
Amir Khusyairi has been hitting the campaign trail in the Felda schemes to talk to Malay voters and may win some votes there.
But whether he succeeds in winning over minority voters is questionable without the support of PH component party DAP, which has better reach among the Chinese community.
This by-election is a litmus test for Amir Khusyairi and Pejuang, the latter which has yet to be officially registered as a political party.
If Amir Khusyairi loses his electoral deposit in a straight fight, it might spell an early end to Pejuang and push its founders, Dr Mahathir and his son Datuk Seri Mukhriz out of the mainstream in Malaysia’s new political equation.