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High stakes in Bagan Pinang

Corrected at 1:50pm, 5 Oct 2009

Outside the BN headquarters in Bagan Pinang prior to nomination day on 3 Oct

“IF the Barisan Nasional (BN) loses, it will be catastrophic,” Umno Youth chief and Rembau Member of Parliament Khairy Jamaluddin tells The Nut Graph in a phone interview.

Talk about high stakes. But he is right. The BN has lost six out of the eight by-elections held after the historic 8 March 2008 general election. It only managed to retain Batang Ai in Sarawak, and technically did not lose the Penanti seat to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) because it did not contest. And so, as Khairy says, “this is a crucial victory” for the BN to keep its hopes up for the next general election, which is due by 2013.

A victory in Bagan Pinang is no less crucial for the Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Of the six by-elections it has won since March 2008, five have been in PR incumbencies. The only constituency that the PR managed to wrest away from the BN was the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat in January 2009.

Negeri Sembilan may hang in the BN’s favour, but it hangs rather precariously. It is to the BN what Perak was to the PR prior to the state assembly takeover in February 2009. The BN currently rules Negeri Sembilan with a simple majority. Before this by-election, it held 21 out of the 36 seats, while the PR had 15. Granted, it is not as insecure a gap as what the PR faced in Perak, but the BN probably does not want the gap narrowed in any way.

So, what are some of the crucial issues that stand in the way of victory for both the BN and the PR, which they are likely to exploit during the campaign?

PAS paraphernalia

The Isa factor

PAS vice-president and the PR’s Bagan Pinang election director Salahuddin Ayub tells The Nut Graph what his party intends to highlight. “We do not plan to play with personal issues, but we really need to ask if the BN is serious about upholding integrity?” he says in a phone interview. 

Rohaizat Othman (Courtesy
of theSun)
“It does not matter who the candidate is. The BN did it in the Permatang Pasir by-election, and is repeating it in Bagan Pinang,” he explains.

By Permatang Pasir, Salahuddin is of course referring to the BN’s mind-boggling decision to field Umno’s Rohaizat Othman as the candidate, a lawyer who was disbarred by the Bar Council for swindling a client. Rohaizat eventually lost by 4,551 votes — not a close call.

And by Bagan Pinang, Salahuddin is referring to the BN’s candidate from Umno, former Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad. In 2005, Isa was found guilty of money politics by Umno’s disciplinary board and was initially suspended by the party for six years. Upon appeal, the sentence was commuted to three years and eventually ended in June 2008.

Even Umno veterans Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah have voiced their disapproval of the BN fielding a tainted candidate like Isa.

Khairy, however, disagrees. “This is very, very different from Permatang Pasir. Isa Samad is very different — he is the godfather of Teluk Kemang politics. The tainted candidate in Permatang Pasir was an unknown.”

At least one study, by research firm Ilham Centre, backs Khairy’s claim. The survey found that 52% of 594 respondents said voters would reject the BN because of the perception that Umno was corrupt.

Isa Samad
But look at what else the survey unearthed: 81% said Isa was Umno’s best bet for Bagan Pinang. About 44% agreed that the BN would win by a bigger majority this time, as opposed to 17% who disagreed. Furthermore, 65% gave the thumbs up to Datuk Mohammad Hassan’s performance as the current menteri besar from the BN.

Here’s the other thing the survey found: only 33% agreed that Teoh Beng Hock‘s death would affect votes, while 39% agreed that the cow-head protest in Selangor would sway votes.

But surveys will be surveys, and this one was conducted from 15 to 16 Sept on a sample of respondents who form only a fraction of the total number of registered voters. Still, it seems as though the PR faces an uphill battle in Bagan Pinang.

The Indian Malaysian vote

The Indian Malaysian vote is expected to tip the scale in this poll. Political analyst Prof Dr James Chin tells The Nut Graph: “The interesting phenomenon here is that the Indian Malaysian vote will hold the key for both the BN and PR.”

According to Chin, 80% of the Chinese Malaysian vote is still behind the PR, and analysts suspect that 60% to 70% of the Malay Malaysian vote will go to the BN. This is why the Indian Malaysian vote is so crucial, he explains in a phone interview.

However, according to Chin, the Indian Malaysian vote will probably be influenced by the Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party (MMSP) and the MIC trying to outdo each other. He says the BN-friendly MMSP will be trying its best to prove to Prime Minister and BN chairperson Datuk Seri Najib Razak that it can get the Indian Malaysian vote. The MMSP’s fervour might threaten the MIC, though, which could then be incentive for the MIC to “disturb” the vote.

Khairy (File pic)
But what about the colossal number of postal votes — 4,604 in all, or 33.7% of the number of registered voters? “You can assume that virtually all the postal votes will go to the BN,” he says.

According to Khairy, though, it is the bigger picture that’s important. “The PR is almost schizophrenic in its inconsistency. Not just between a secular party [like the DAP] and a party like PAS, but even within PAS,” he says. “How can you have one party member going to a church [to reach out to non-Muslim Malaysians] and another wanting to ban a soft-rock concert?”

He says although the BN is often inconsistent, the “inconsistencies are managed better in the BN than in the opposition.”

Salor state assemblyperson and ex-PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa disagrees. On nomination day on 3 Oct, he told reporters: “There is no split in the PR. Our candidate has a multiracial curriculum vitae. He has a clean track record, and is accepted by all races.”

Polling is on 11 Oct.

As past election campaigns have demonstrated, internal problems in rival parties and coalitions and the candidates’ flaws are often dredged up in such contests. Bagan Pinang will be no different, especially when the stakes are this high for both the BN and the PR. Will voters be swayed by questions on Isa’s, and Umno’s, integrity, or on the PR’s inconsistencies?


Bagan Pinang seat profile
Ethnic composition 
(Source: Election Commission)
 Malay Malaysians 8,577 (62.77%)
 Indian Malaysians 
2,834 (20.74%)
 Chinese Malaysians
1,498 (10.96%)
 Other Malaysians
755 (5.53%)

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8 Responses to “High stakes in Bagan Pinang”

  1. Joseph Raj says:

    Wow, KJ, I did not know that going to church to reach out to non-Muslims = extremism.

  2. salam says:

    Politics of this nature would not hold water in the long run. Clean and untainted politicians would be preferred here, so the people should make the best choice by voting for the candidate who is clean in all respects. Our future is in clean leaders.

  3. TPHC? says:

    I’ve always voted DAP.

    I’ve always liked their leaders and I believe that it’s time to shift to a true meritocracy model in order for this country to survive and compete globally. I don’t expect a truly 1Malaysia to occur in the first quarter of this millennium, it’s a pipe dream as long as we’re not a truly secular state with laws that transcend race and religion. It’s going to take a couple of centuries to cast God out of the law and major decision-making processes and replace [God] with humanist compassion, logic and common sense.

    I always believed that it would be a cold day in hell before I voted PAS. They went against everything I believe in. All they were concerned about appeared to be religious dogma and the most superficial aspects of their religion. References ad nauseum about a (lost) “Golden Age”, but absolutely no perceivable effort in actually creating an environment for science, art and commerce to flourish.

    Of course, it’s easier to go after MLTR and Beyonce than to sit down and figure out how to fix the school system (or create a GOOD alternative one – not a madrasah).

    It’s easier to build mosques and suraus and parrot the Quran and the Hadith than to construct a learning or tutorial center to teach kids fundamental (real) math and science.

    It’s easier to put together moral police squads to harass young lovers than it is to figure out how to identify and assist victims of sexual abuse.

    And no matter how many moon cake festivals or temple events they attend, their ideal society will consist of The Faithful and The Dhimi Class, whose belief system is sub par next to Islam. I can’t logically see how a PAS adherent could treat a non-Muslim as an equal if they don’t believe the non-Muslim moral framework is EQUAL to a Muslim moral framework? PAS’s God is better than their God(s). [The former’s] laws are REAL. Yours are [human] made and thus, inferior. At most you can ~tolerate~ but never ACCEPT each other.

    When I moved from my home constituency to Shah Alam, I was faced with a very difficult decision. I only had PR (with PAS & PKR) and BN to choose from. I had had ENOUGH of BN’s shenanigans and ARROGANCE. My tax RM was being squandered. I was VERY PISSED OFF.

    So, I decided in the last elections to vote PR: PAS and PKR. PKR wasn’t too bitter a pill to swallow, I don’t think highly of Anwar and the party seemed to be a cult of personality whose goals were to first get leader out of jail, then put him back in power. But they were multiracial and didn’t dispense hellfire. Though, other than Eli Wong, I can’t say I have much respect for anyone in this party.

    I couldn’t vote for PAS sober. So several tumblers of Jack were required before heading over to the polling station and I was ready to Jihad BN back to the stone age.

    A year after that I realised my error. They were everything I expected, parochial, superficial and dangerous. They can’t change. That’s in their nature (as Shanon so eloquently described in another article). I realise now that any party or organisation driven by religious belief is a ticking time bomb. The Hasan Ali’s and Harussani’s are proof of this. For many like them, their commitment to their interpretation of an Islamic moral framework is fanatical and visceral. There is no reasoning when you believe that you’re taking orders from an Absolute Authority. How can you affect change? Religiosity, if allowed to run unchecked, will result in a Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan. I’m not interested in seeing executions for half-time entertainment in the football stadium.

    Lesson learned: I sure as hell won’t be drinking and voting in the next elections.

  4. Nicholas Aw says:

    On paper, Isa should win hands down. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed and praying for an upset. Why? Obviously, the PM is not putting into practice his slogan “1Malaysia”. Putting up a tainted candidate is absolutely unacceptable. Khairy’s profiling of Isa Samad being very, very different — “he is the godfather of Teluk Kemang politics” — does not hold water. It is like appointing a murderer to be the PM. Oh! I forgot, “Malaysia Boleh”!

  5. Lim Goh Tong says:

    If you are still considered a second- or third-class citizen, branded as a pendatang, and your children are unable to gain entry into local university despite good grades and despite your having lived in Malaysia for the past 52 years, then voting for the BN/Umno/MCA/MIC is like hammering another nail into our coffin […]

  6. Motro says:

    by Motro

    Based on your voters breakdown, and assuming they are all going out on polling day, at least 5,850 votes will go to Zulkefly. I can say for sure PR/PAS will secure those votes.But that’s only 42.8%.

    […] PR/PAS just needs 50.05%, that’s all. It’s equivalent to 6,838 votes. Therefore, they need to work harder to secure another 988 votes.

  7. pakkarim says:

    So much is at stake for both coalitions that each has to show proof to the voters of the negative aspects of their respective opponent. In this context, the PR has the advantage in facing a “vote buyer” such as Isa Samad. Will history repeat itself during this by-election? Will Isa use his monies to buy his way back into government? The PR must do its best to uncover any gimmicks or hanky-panky from this proven “corruptor”!

  8. humbug says:

    Only two words: postal votes.

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