PAS may not capture Tenang but neither can BN be assured of a smooth ride.
KUALA LUMPUR: PAS seems to have lost its grip on the Tenang state seat in Johor, even before the countdown to polling day started.
However, Barisan Nasional (BN) is not expected to have a smooth sailing either, given the various issues being played up by PAS and its allies – DAP and PKR – at the national level.
The issues may not jeopardise BN’s chances of a victory, but they may make it harder for the ruling coalition to achieve its objective of doubling its majority gained in the 2008 general election.
Several controversial matters had cropped up lately including the open verdict returned in Teoh Beng Hock’s inquest, the appointment of the Selangor state secretary which involved the Selangor palace, the novel “Interlok” which raised the ire of the Indian community and the rising prices of food items.
Traditionally a BN seat, PAS has tried in vain to wrest the seat with the help of the DAP and PKR in the 2008 general election but failed.
In the 2008 political tsunami, BN received a sound drubbing to the extent that it lost its two-thirds majority, but in recent months, the turbulence in Pakatan Rakyat has given BN the opportunity to regain its strength all over the country.
Now BN feels confident of keeping Tenang in its bag.
Tenang, which has some 14,700-odd voters, comprises 49% Malays, 38% Chinese, 12% Indians and 0.9% others.
The constituency has a small busy town called Labis where the majority of the Chinese voters are located. They do business mostly with the four major Felda plantations where some 4,000-odd Malay voters reside and with small plantations where the Indians are the majority.
The Malay voters in the Felda plantations who at one time were PAS supporters have now “switched” camp and gone over to BN, according to some observers who went to Tenang for a preliminary survey.
They said that Felda management has played a big role in helping the settlers solve their problems, and they are no longer turning to PAS and PKR for help. Moreover, their confidence in the opposition has dwindled in the last two years.
Said an observer who spoke to the settlers: “They see PAS split between president Abdul Hadi Awang and spiritual adviser Nik Aziz Nik Mat, and PKR weakened with its de facto chief Anwar Ibrahim saddled with personal problems.
“Never underestimate the political understanding of these settlers. They too read newspapers and blogs and know what is going on in the opposition camp,” he said.
The observer said there were even rumours that Anwar would be coming to the Felda schemes “quietly” because the settlers are not too keen to want him around.
“However, what we fear here is the rising costs of food items which may affect voter sentiments, especially the Chinese given that the Chinese New Year is just around the corner.
“MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek may have to do a lot of spade work to convince them that the hike in prices is a passing fad,” he added.
However, Chua, according to another observer, is well-liked by the Chinese voters and his son, Chua Tee Yong, has been servicing the constituents well.
As for Pakatan, its only hope of staying afloat is to harp on national issues to create public awarenes and a seismic shift towards its cause.
But still, the waters are rough despite the calm or “tenang” on the surface