SUNGAI PETANI, 29 March 2009: The big number of independent candidates contesting in the Bukit Selambau by-election on 7 April is a manifestation of the uncertain political situation in Kedah, according to a political analyst.
Dr Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Faruq, a political science lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia, said 13 independent candidates contesting against Barisan Nasional (BN)’s Datuk S Ganesan and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s S Manikumar could cause the votes to be really divided among the candidates.
“But if BN wins, it shows the trend of support is changing in favour of BN after it lost in Kuala Terengganu and Permatang Pauh. This is what BN wants; to see such a change among voters,” he told Bernama today.
Azeem Fazwan said the participation of many independent candidates perhaps indicated that certain sections of voters could not accept the candidates chosen by either PKR or BN.
“The only thing is, it’s difficult to know who are the people behind these independents.
“This also shows that the community is pretty divided.”
He said if BN won, it could also mean the Bukit Selambau voters accepted the new Umno leadership chosen at the just-concluded party general assembly in Kuala Lumpur.
However, he said, the issues in Bukit Selambau were more local than national.
He also felt that PKR’s internal problems could give an edge to the BN in this state seat by-election, while Malay Malaysians who make up half of the area’s 35,140 registered voters could be the determining factor on 7 April.
“This is because the mood of the Indian [Malaysian] voters, who form 29.5%, is difficult to predict although they tend to be anti-establishment,” he explained.
“But then, their mood may also change after Kedah came under PAS’s control after the last general election,” he added.
Chinese Malaysian voters comprise 19.3% of the voters while the other races make up 1%.
Opportunity for BN
Assoc Prof Dr Ahmad Nidzammuddin Sulaiman of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Historical, Political and Strategic Studies Centre, however, felt that the big number of independent candidates would provide the opportunity for BN to win the seat.
“BN has a bigger and much better organised campaign machinery than the independent candidates. Many of the voters are also located in rural or interior areas, making it more difficult to them to be reached without resources while too many independent candidates can confuse the voters,” he said.
He also agreed that the rift in PKR could to a certain extent help the BN candidate to win.
However, Ahmad Nidzamuddin did not dismiss the possibility of an independent candidate winning the seat based on the outcome of the 12th general election on 8 March last year.
Historian Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim said the participation of so many independent candidates in an election had not happened before in the country’s political history.
“I don’t know what’s the strategy behind all this. Politics in the old days was not like now as the people then were not too complex,” he said.
Khoo observed that usually an election would only involve a straight fight or three-cornered fight.
“In some instances, an independent candidate would be fielded by a certain group to split the votes but with 13 independent candidates now, it has become just too complex,” he said.
The independent candidates are R Loganathan (using the oil palm symbol), Tan Hock Huat (key), Radzi Md Lazim (chair), Mohd Fadzil Abdul Wahab (tiger head), Abdul Rahim Abu (alarm clock), L Sarala (bicycle), A Jayagopal (umbrella), S Moganakumar (book), Khamis Awang (rooster), Husaini Yaacob (bus), M Venason (fish), Major (Rtd) Anuar Abd Hamid (telephone) and T Chandrarajan (aeroplane).
The Bukit Selambau by-election is being held following the resignation of its assemblyperson V Arumugam on 8 Feb.
Arumugam had won the seat as an independent candidate in the last general election by defeating BN’s S Krishnan with a 2,362-vote majority. He subsequently joined PKR. — Bernama