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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Can Berjasa capitalise on Malay-Muslim sentiment to stage an upset?

TANJUNG PIAI POLLS | Berjasa president Badhrulhisham Abd Aziz, who is contesting in the Tanjung Piai by-election in Johor, is confident of winning the parliamentary seat with a 2,000 vote majority.
He is hoping to capitalise on Malay-Muslim unhappiness with BN fielding MCA’s Wee Jeck Seng instead of a Malay-Muslim candidate from Umno.
The Islamist party has two main target groups, the first being PAS supporters who gave Berjasa 2,962 votes in the 14th general election when it contested Tanjung Piai on a PAS ticket.
PAS, which has entered into a formal alliance with Umno, is backing Wee and its president Abdul Hadi Awang said this is because the MCA man is not an extremist non-Muslim.
Badhrulhisham's second target is disgruntled Umno supporters, who want a Malay MP.
Given the current political climate which is centered on racial and religious issues, it is not impossible for a PAS splinter party to steal votes from Umno.
Despite Badhrulhisham's ambitious projection, Berjasa's campaign in Tanjung Piai has been relatively low key.
Photo: Badhrulhisham visits a cemetery
PAS supporters split over Wee
During one of his first campaign events on Monday, Badhrulhisham and a handful of followers visited a Muslim cemetery in Kampung Parit Selangor at Pekan Nanas.
Following this, he and his team performed their evening prayers at the adjacent mosque before holding a press conference.
Speaking to Malaysiakini later, the mosque's 69-year-old imam, who is a staunch PAS supporter, revealed how he still has reservations about BN.
“I'm a PAS man, I support Muslims. I have hope in Berjasa because it is difficult for us to trust BN’s (candidate), how can they take care of Malays?” he asked.
“It's possible for Berjasa to win because we Muslims see their efforts and there may be (other) PAS supporters who would vote for Berjasa too.
“This is an Umno place, why did BN put a Chinese candidate?” he added.
Another PAS supporter in Pekan Nanas, Adly Ahmad, said the decision to field Wee has left supporters of the Islamist party in a quandary.
“Many PAS supporters feel confused because if they vote BN, it's a Chinese candidate.
“Berjasa are Malays right. Previously the (PAS candidate) was also from Berjasa, so it's not impossible for PAS supporters to vote (Berjasa) even though there are not many of us,” he added.
However, voters like Ramli and Adly might be the exception even among PAS supporters in Tanjung Piai.
During a joint BN and PAS ceramah on Wednesday, several PAS members told Malaysiakini that they would toe the party line and back Wee.
“The leadership has told us to vote MCA, so we vote. Plus Wee is someone we know, he is a good person,” said Sarkawi Banjar, 64.
Photo: Sarkawi Banjar (left) and Mohamad Kasian Salim
His friend, Mohamad Kasian Salim said that Badhrulhisham might be a Malay but the Muar native is not a familiar face to the people in Tanjung Piai.
“It's hard for me to talk about Berjasa's chances. They had hope in the past but now the PAS people here want to support MCA.
“He (Badhrulhisham) is a Malay but we don't know him. We will vote for who we feel comfortable with,” said the Pekan Nanas resident.
Another PAS supporter from Kukup, who wanted to be known as Jihan, said whether the candidate is a Chinese or Malay, it is not wrong to vote for them if they know how to do their job.
Previously, PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan said Berjasa, who was their ally in the last general election, did not receive the party's blessings to contest in the by-election.
With PAS votes likely to be split, what are Badhrulhisham's chances with Umno supporters?
Umno supporters: Wee was a good MP
Met at BN's polling district centre in Serkat, local Umno branch chief Norhisham Othman admitted that at first there was unhappiness among the grassroots that MCA would be contesting the seat.
However, he claimed that any dissatisfaction had been resolved after the top leadership explained their decision.
“We don't want the non-Malays to think we are racist for not giving the seat to MCA. We're taking a step back so that we can move forward for the next general election,” he said.
Norhisham is convinced that Berjasa would not be able to secure Umno votes and this was echoed by those Malaysiakini met.
Many of them recalled how Wee, who served as Tanjung Piai MP from 2008 to 2018, had helped them in the past.
“We have known Wee for a long time. He helped my husband once, who had no money at the time, to do cataract surgery,” said Aminah Abdul Rahim, 61.
Likewise, Zaharah Tahir (photo), 51, said she owed a debt of gratitude to the MCA leader.
“He helped me a lot when he was an MP, I was really sad when he lost (last year). I feel indebted to him, and will vote for him,” she added.
One Umno supporter, Idris Ahmad, said Wee’s race did not matter to many Malays in Tanjung Piai because he had served his constituents well.
The Tanjung Piai by-election was called after its incumbent Dr Md Farid Md Farik died in September.
The Pakatan Harapan candidate won the seat with 21,555 votes against Wee’s 20,731 votes.
Badhrulhisham and Wee would be facing candidates from Harapan and Gerakan as well as two independents for the seat.
Polling day is on Nov 16. - Mkini

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