KUALA TERENGGANU, 14 Jan 2009: The street in Kampung Cina here appears relatively calm despite daytime activities and the intensified campaign for the 17 Jan Kuala Terengganu parliamentary by-election.
“Actually, it is boiling here,” a coffeeshop owner, who wanted to be known only as Chua, said, referring to the close battle for the 8,229 Chinese votes in the constituency.
The campaign is now getting into full gear with Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat grappling to read the sentiment among Chinese Malaysian voters.
Analysts believe it is these voters who will determine the by-election winner, in the same way that they propelled the BN to victories here in the last two general elections.
PAS, which has fielded five-term Wakaf Mempelam assemblyperson Abdul Wahid Endut, is letting the DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) steer the campaign in the Chinese areas.
The BN, represented by former Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wan Farid Wan Salleh from Umno, has MCA and Gerakan to do the job.
“We have been entrusted with the task to deliver the votes in these areas,” Terengganu Gerakan chairperson Yap Kea Ping said.
Both sides have had their national leaders going on house-to-house campaigning. They shake hands with voters and distribute mandarin oranges and Chinese New Year cards, as well as hold nightly ceramah.
The BN’s Wan Farid greets members of the Chinese Malaysian community
Issues brought up by the DAP and PKR have mainly been national issues like corruption, the sluggish economy, teaching of mathematics and science in English, and the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The BN has reminded voters of the PAS state government’s failure to fulfill its promises, and the controversy over the PAS proposal to implement hudud law.
The DAP claims it has the support of the Chinese Malaysian voters, judging from the crowd turnout at its ceramah sessions.
At a ceramah held next to the MCA state headquarters here on 11 Jan, DAP raised about RM3,500 from a crowd of about 1,000 people.
A DAP campaign worker said in some ways, the total collection and crowd turnout were an indication of support for the party.
He said that the method was used in the last general election to gauge voter support during campaigning in west coast constituencies.
DAP strategist Liew Chin Tong said he believed the Chinese Malaysian voters were in favour of the opposition.
The BN is taking a different approach to the campaign by meeting the voters in smaller groups.
Local MCA leader Patrik Yap said a large turnout does not necessarily reflect true support for the opposition.
“I went to a (DAP) ceramah in the Chinese area and found that the first row of seats was actually occupied by journalists.
“At the back, the space was filled by MCA campaign workers who were there to monitor the situation,” he said, adding that the opposition parties should not make sweeping claims that Chinese Malaysians supported them.
Furthermore, he said, BN leaders had been meeting Chinese guilds and associations — such as the Kuala Terengganu Chinese Town Hall — which are highly influential among the Chinese Malaysian community here.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself held a closed-door dialogue with guild leaders on the night of 9 Jan while MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon also held similar meetings.
“We think that this is the best way to approach the Chinese voters as the community leaders would have the opportunity to voice out their problems and opinions.
“If the group is too big, there is not much communication taking place,” Dr Koh told Bernama.
In the meantime, both the BN and Pakatan Rakyat are bringing home some 2,500 Chinese Malaysian voters currently working outside Terengganu to return to cast their ballot in the by-election.
The by-election is a three-way fight involving Wan Ahmad Farid, Abdul Wahid and independent Azharudin Mamat @ Adam. — Bernama