Think tank predicts BN to win big in Slim poll, but Pejuang may come out looking good

Ilham sees Pejuang likely failing to challenge the Muafakat Nasional alliance between Umno and PAS in Slim. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Ilham sees Pejuang likely failing to challenge the Muafakat Nasional alliance between Umno and PAS in Slim. — Picture by Farhan Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 — Barisan Nasional (BN) is expected to win by a landslide despite Parti Pejuang Tanah Air’s more visible presence, think tank Ilham Centre said today.

The research outfit said as with the Chini by-election in July, the Pakatan Harapan-linked Pejuang will likely fail to challenge the Muafakat Nasional (MN) alliance between Umno and PAS.

“Nonetheless, the efforts of Pejuang to field a candidate even on an Independent ticket should be commended for successfully preventing an outright victory for the BN candidate,” it said in a statement.

The centre noted that BN’s Mohd Zaidi Aziz, who was fielded as part of BN’s youth strategy, did not manage to carry the aspirations of Slim’s youths.

“Mohd Zaidi’s campaign is seen as lacking energy, be it in terms of public speaking or when canvassing for votes, when compared to the Pejuang candidate.

“However Mohd Zaidi’s shortcomings were saved by the efforts of BN’s machinery, in addition to contesting in an Umno stronghold which is a safe area that has never been lost,” it said.

On Pejuang’s Amir Khusyairi Mohamad Tanusi, Ilham said his candidacy in the by-election will test how far the party can challenge MN’s local hegemony.

“Amir began as an underdog and sought to become the David in a match against Goliath. He displays refreshing qualities such as his youth, nimbleness, agility, skill in debating, gregariousness and going out to meet voters, which has made him the most viable candidate.

“On the other hand, independent candidate S. Santharasekaran failed to make any impact due to the inability to campaign effectively since he lacked experience, resources and an election machinery,” it said.

The centre’s poll also indicated that for many of its respondents, partisan considerations supersede issues and candidates, particularly for the Malay voters.

“67 per cent of respondents selected party identification as a factor in deciding who to vote for. This is also affected by a political subculture among voters who evaluate the party’s strength by considering its number of members, branches, and the strength of the machinery on display.

“From this aspect, the BN candidate is certainly at an advantage, in addition to the assistance from PAS after the two Malay-based parties united under MN’s platform,” it said.

Ilham noted that for Slim, PAS was traditionally the greatest challenge for Umno based on its demographics

“But PAS’ vote base which overall is around 22 per cent for Slim, will thus go to the BN candidate in this by-election. The poll determined that the cooperation between BN and PAS which began in the Cameron Highlands by-election on January 29 last year is still running strong.

“It is sufficiently strong that in the hypothetical situation where some PAS members are dissatisfied with the Umno-PAS cooperation, they would not vote in protest all the same. Although there are certainly PAS member who are unhappy at this cooperation, when it comes to casting their ballots they will heed the central leadership and vote for the BN candidate,” it said.

For the most part however, Ilham said the Umno-PAS alliance has been well-received, as seen in this by-election.

“Most Malay voters have been able to accept the MN and Umno-PAS alliance. In contrast, detailed answers from respondents have revealed that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia is not seen as a party that can complete the powers of Umno and PAS.

“This is visible when the Bersatu machinery appeared to work by itself, and was also seen as isolated from the synchrony of MN’s campaigning. Only the popularity of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin from Bersatu managed to salvage things,” it said.

The by-election itself presented a dangerous scenario for Bersatu, with the centre noting that its members are exposed to the narrative espoused by Pejuang.

“Bersatu members who could not make headway or lost political appointments during Pakatan’s administration have now shifted their support to the Pejuang candidate who they see as representing Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s struggle.

“In short, the by-election is a field to promote a new party and to advertise its presence to the public at large. Pejuang is also gathering low-hanging fruits by picking up these Bersatu members to support their struggle,” it said.

The poll was conducted via surveys along with individual and group interviews, carried out from August 7 to 27, and involved 502 respondents as a sample in a study that was done face-to-face.

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