Monday, April 22, 2024

Indian to be kingmaker at KKB

KKB by-election will test the political mood


Star Online Saturday, 20 Apr 2024

The peaceful outpost of Kuala Kubu Baru is about to be stirred and shaken in a by-election that could reflect the swirling political sentiments in Selangor

THE late Kuala Kubu Baharu (KKB) assemblyman Lee Kee Hiong was not a standout figure in Selangor politics.

Some journalists who reported on her death from cancer had wondered what it was about her that resulted in so many DAP leaders weeping over her coffin and paying their respects at her wake.

Lee was an arch loyalist of Tan Sri Lim Kit Siang whom she got to know back in Melaka where she grew up. She began her political career managing the DAP headquarters in Petaling Jaya and became quite powerful in her own way because she had the ears of the DAP maestro.

She parachuted into KKB in the 2013 general election and defied the odds by snatching the seat from MCA. But she was not known for her opinions on issues nor did she shine as a legislator, although she is said to have established a base for DAP in the area.

However, KKB is no longer the Chinese-majority seat that it used to be. It is now a mixed seat that is almost a microcosm of the national ethnic makeup.

Situated in the northern corner of Selangor, it is now 46.4% Malay, 30.6% Chinese, 18% Indian and 5% other races.

Given the prevailing sentiments, Malays will be under pressure to vote for Perikatan Nasional while the non-Malays will be told that Pakatan Harapan stands multi-racialism which is a polite way of playing up their fears of PAS and Islam.

The opinion is that it will be a 50:50 battle with the Indian voters positioned as the possible kingmaker.

DAP leaders are not taking things for granted despite the party winning the seat by a 4000-vote majority in the state election.

Lee did not have the sort of personality to establish that sentimental grounding that some YBs hold over their seats. Some of the Indian voters complained she was rarely around.

The weight of the federal and state government will also bear down on Perikatan with Housing and Local Government Minister Nga Kor Ming announcing RM5.1mil in projects for the area.

The timing of the allocation infuriated Perikatan’s Selangor chief Datuk Seri Azmin Ali who said he is “sick of the old mentality of bribing voters” ahead of an election.

Azmin, the former Selangor Mentri Besar, slammed the move as “dirty money politics”.

Speculation about candidates is still bubbling away and Azmin was mum about Perikatan’s choice but indicated the coalition will meet on Monday to decide.

Will the two sides buck the trend? Will Perikatan field a Chinese candidate and will DAP go for a Malay candidate as have been reported?

Neither are likely to take the risk because a by-election is not the time for experiments.

Moreover, an internal Perikatan survey has shown 51% of the Chinese and 49% of Malay voters consider the race of the candidate to be a factor for them. The Indians seem most willing to accept other races with only 31% of them stressing on the candidate’s race.

The survey also showed that an overwhelming majority want a local-born candidate who is familiar with local issues.

Although 58% of those polled were worried about the future, more people approved of the current government than disapproved of it.

Incidentally, the Malays were the most unsure about the future with 74% of them saying they were worried about the coming years.

According to the survey, issues of concern to the voters include cost of living (44%), race and religion (24%) and jobs (22%).

An interesting part of the survey concerned a question about which prime minister was more pro-rakyat in his policies. More than 64% of Chinese named Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim whereas 61% of Malays named Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Among the Indians, 36% picked Anwar, 29% picked Muhyiddin while 25% picked Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

A Perikatan insider said the survey indicated that although people are critical about the current state of affairs, there is no outright anger against the government.

It is as though people have come to accept that politicians are more likely to disappoint rather than impress them.

Attention will be on Azmin who led the Perikatan campaign to grab 22 seats in the state election last year. Can he repeat his magic in KKB?

“What magic? There is no magic. I have told our team it will be hard work and we also have to work smart if we want to win. We have to defend what we have and expand our support,” said the Hulu Kelang assemblyman.

It is understood that Hulu Selangor Bersatu division chief Khairul Azhari Saut is leading the list of candidates for Perikatan. Khairul’s parents were Felda settlers in Hulu Selangor and he has an impressive work experience having worked in Felda, Bursa Malaysia and MIDF.

DAP needs to go all out to retain the seat because a defeat would be a serious psychological blow for Putrajaya.

Most quarters are expecting a lower voter turnout than the 69% turnout in the state polls, and that will pose a challenge to Perikatan.

The above Perikatan insider said the coalition has been able to win easily in seats with 65% or more Malays voters.

“Perikatan needs to come out of the Malay comfort zone, having won most of the Malays majority seats. KKB will be a test of whether Perikatan can sway the votes in a mixed seat. It is a good testing ground to understand the mood and the type of strategy to apply,” said the insider.

The same goes for Pakatan which has become too reliant on non-Malay support.

The next big battle ground for both Pakatan and Perikatan lies in mixed seats like KKB.

And that is why the KKB by-election is a must-watch.

> The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own


The 18% Indian will be the kingmaker. From the feedback received, 10% have rejected DAP. PN will be pursuing for 12 to 14% of Indian voters with the help of P Ramasamy whose common enemy with PN is his previous political party

The presumption is the majority of Malay voters will vote PN. Despite Gerakan demanding the seat as though it is their right to take on DAP, PN is better off to put a Malay candidate. PPBM expressed interest to run. PAS has a long term plan for Selangor and could be more effective to execute the campaign.  

There have been a feeling of neglect among the Melayu voters. The Malay constituent felt they were not looked after by the late two term DAP assemblymen, and the earlier BN "wakil rakyat" from MCA and MIC. 

To counter this, DAP could likely put up a Malay candidate. In addition, this is Selangor and PH has the power of incumbency. MB Amiruddin would have played his role. 

As far as the UMNO factor, they did not do well in the Selangor state election. Their influence within Malay voters in Selangor are not significant. However, the Najib "missing" addendum issue could weigh down votes from UMNO diehards who could sit out or vote PN.

Despite there are votes from Malays to go PH way, victory is dependent on DAP's Chinese constituents. If a Malay candidate is put up but will not secure Malay votes, DAP would be better off to stick to a Chinese candidate and secure the Chinese votes.   

There have been talk that Chinese are fed-up with the direction economy is going. Its not an easy seat for PH with Rafizi insistence on pulling back the fuel subsidy, but doubt he has the "formula" to lessen the blow for the already financially pressed rakyat.       

MCA grassroot is demanding for seat but doubt they could run. Nevertheless, there is a sentiment percolating among Chinese businessmen that a significant number of Chinese voters might sit out from voting PH. If it is any consolation, KKB is a rural seat and that attitude is not prevalent there. Generally most analysts dare not utter the vote boycott view. 

So it could boil down to whom the Indians are giving their votes. MIC's dream for the Indians to be kingmaker will finally realise itself at KKB. 

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