This will be the 8th by-election since the 308 general election. There are 20,350 voters in the Permatang Pasir constituency. The Malays account for 72.3 percent, Chinese 26 percent, Indian and others 1.7 percent. This seat has been traditionally an opposition seat. In the 2008 election, PAS won with a majority of 5,433 votes.
For BN, it is not going to be an easy battle since this state seat is situated within the Parliamentary seat of Permatang Pauh. Anwar’s influence would be overwhelming. Losing the seat is more likely than winning. Hence, winning will be a bonus for BN. In fact, to be able to reduce the majority of 5,433 votes won by the previous PAS candidate will be a moral booster for BN.
UMNO’s choice of candidate will be crucial. If the candidate is accepted by most members of the division, then I am sure UMNO members will be more committed to ensure that the election machinery function effectively. This is often one of the biggest problems in BN, be it UMNO, MCA, MIC or Gerakan where the choice of candidate is crucial in facing the election. Often the lack of support by own party members can prove to be fatal in the election, more so in the by-election. When members know that the results of the by-election will not tilt the balance of political power within the state, then total commitment by BN members may be lacking.
Of course PAS members will be in high spirit in facing this by-election, not forgetting that this is their stronghold. However, the drastic reduction of the majority votes obtained by the PAS candidate in Manik Urai, Kelantan could have unnerved the confidence within the party. Hence, PAS’ party members may even work harder to prove their point that they have the support of the Malay community.
The 5,600 non-Malay voters will be crucial in this coming by-election. This is another classical example that when the Malay votes are split, then the non-Malay votes, if they are substantial, will be crucial to the victory of any party. BN will then have to pursue what we call a middle path, catering to the needs of all community. This politics of balancing can be a very delicate job, which not many will understand. The opposition will have the advantage of talking since they do not have to practice what they preach, by virtue of the fact that they are not in power at the federal level. The recent open spat between PAS and DAP is a good example of politics in action at the state level. When each party has its own agenda and having to cater to its own supporters, then open clashes become inevitable between the parties. The sale of alcohol is totally blown out of proportion by PAS and DAP. State level politics permit such open quarrel as it will not tear the nation apart. When confronted with bigger issues and if it is divisive, then the nation may be held to ransom by the political parties involved.
When chairing a few of the BN’s coordinating meeting in Selangor, I notice that there have been a lot of complaints that there is mushrooming of entertainment outlets within Selangor, especially in the Klang valley. The usual complaint is that the cyber cafes and pubs are situated near schools. This has caused a lot of dissatisfaction among the people. I am sure a lot of PAS leaders are against their own state government for approving many of these entertainment outlets. Wee Choo Keong’s outburst against the DAP EXCO member is very enlightening to us.
In the Permatang Pasir by-election, national issue will overwhelm local issues. How national issues are going to be played out will depend on the two main political parties, BN and PR.