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Friday, January 28, 2011

BN set to retain Tenang although Chinese votes remain elusive

With polling day just around the corner, there is a consensus of opinion among party workers, political analysts and ordinary Labis folks that PAS is in a losing battle in the Tenang by-election.

PAS has not made much inroad in the Malay-dominated areas such as the three FELDA schemes -- Chemplak, Tenang and Chemplak Barat -- which represent a huge slice of the Malay vote.

They are finding it tough in the Indian-dominated areas as well, and are banking on the Chinese voters to support them like in the previous election.

"Everyone knows that it's a losing battle for us in this by-election. The only question remaining is how big a majority BN can get," DAP central committee member Jeff Ooi said.

"If the deficit from the Chinese votes is big, I don't think they can hit the target of more than 5,000 majority."

Knowing that the Chinese votes remain elusive, BN has re-doubled its campaign effort while re-evaluating its target of getting a majority of more than 5,000.

"We don't think that can be achieved. A majority of about 3,000 looks more realistic, but again much would depend on the deficit from the Chinese votes," said a BN strategist who did not wish to be identified.

"If we can maintain the Chinese votes or increase their number a bit, then we're likely to hit about 4,000 majority."

Even if PAS lose in Tenang, which has about 14,000 voters, PKR, PAS and DAP campaigners believe that the opposition can still inflict some damage to BN, especially the MCA, and particularly its president, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

Labis has been the stronghold of Dr Chua and if the opposition manages to reduce the number of the Chinese votes for BN, the implications on his leadership could be serious, with his detractors in the party using the decrease in support against him.

Maybe that is why Dr Chua has stepped up the MCA campaign in Chinese areas, with a programme that includes dinners being held simultaneously at several places.

They are apparently to counter the opposition's "Grand Finale" meet-the-people session to be held tonight at a restaurant in Labis where opposition leaders Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim of PKR, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat of PAS and Lim Guan Eng of the DAP are due to speak.

The DAP is pushing hard for Chinese votes for the opposition to hit 70 per cent compared to an average of 60 per cent in the last general election.

"The voters are strongly warming up to us but we can't judge anything yet because, as we are aware, a last minute BN strategy may swing some votes. Tonight's grand ceramah will be most important as we will focus on house-to-house campaigning after that," DAP Johor Chairman Dr Boo Cheng Hau said.

Statistics show that the PAS candidate in the 2008 general election secured between 50 per cent and 67 per cent of votes in Chinese-majority areas. In Labis Tengah, for example, where 96 per cent of voters were Chinese, PAS garnered 66.8 per cent.

Even as the two sides make their final push, their workers are reporting that most of the voters seemed to have already made up their minds.

Workers engaged in house-house campaigning said that the most of the voters they met in the last few days indicated "by body language" that they have already decided who they wanted to represent them.

"It was obvious that most of the voters have made up their minds. What we don't know is which of the candidates is their choice," MCA central committee member Gan Peng Sieu said.

Both candidates have gone the extra mile to win the hearts of the Chinese voters.

BN candidate Mohd Azahar Ibrahim has learned the Chinese New Year song "Go Xi Gong Xi" and has sung it at dinner gatherings to loud applause. He has occasionally shown his skills at calligraphy and at making the traditional Chinese dessert tang-yuan (glutinous rice ball).

PAS candidate Normala Sudirman too has picked up a few Chinese words and showed some skill at calligraphy.

She has also been distributing specially designed Chinese New Year cards to the voters.

- Bernama

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