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Thursday, January 27, 2011

PRK Tenang - Analisis Awal di Tenang

Banyak maklumat yang diperolehi menjurus kepada keyakinan Barisan Nasional mempertahankan kerusi DUN Tenang dengan mengambil kira faktor pengundi melayu yang dikatakan 'solid'. Manakala di kawasan Felda pula, calon PAS Cikgu Mala mampu meraih sokongan kerana beliau pernah mengajar sekolah di Felda dengan hubungan rapatnya dengan ibubapa pelajar. Ketika ini pembangkang memainkan serangan peribadi calon Barisan Nasional, Tok Ai ketika beliau menjadi Penolong Pegawai Daerah.

Seperti PRK Hulu Selangor, pengundi cina lebih menjadi tumpuan dengan MCA berusaha membuktikan keupayaan mereka ketika pemimpin cina PKR & DAP begitu hebat membantu calon PAS bagi meraih sokongan. Ini juga medan terbaik untuk melihat trend pengundi cina yang selama ini dilihat lebih memihak kepada Pakatan Rakyat.

Masih ada beberapa hari lagi sebelum hari mengundi tiba. Jentera kedua-dua pihak juga sedang giat melakukan pelbagai usaha meraih undi. Sudah pasti tumpuan akan diberikan pada hari terakhir tempoh berkempen dengan kedua-dua calon menggulung hujah  dan menyampaikan mesej terakhir kepada pengundi Dun Tenang.

Tenang: The Battle for Chinese Votes
The candidates have been named, the stage is set and it looks like it is going to be an all out battle at the remote rural village of Tenang which falls under the Segamat district in Johor. Tenang, an Umno stronghold, is one of the two state constituencies under Labis with the other being Bekok. Although Johor is a Barisan Nasional (BN) bastion, holding 50 seats in the state legislative assembly, the ruling coalition would have to do more to win convincingly to show that they can keep the Pakatan Rakyat’s incursions comfortably at bay.
Many analysts are focusing on how effective BN and Pakatan will be at garnering support from Tenang’s Chinese community as most, even those in Pakatan, expect Umno has the Malay vote in the bag. Also, there is a significantly large Chinese segment as well as the recent increase in the number of registered Chinese voters here. There are 14,511 registered voters in Tenang in 2008, with Malays comprising 49.66 percent, Chinese 38.13 percent and Indians 12.11 percent. The latest voter register in June last year shows that the number of voters in the constituency has increased to 14,592. Malay voters were fewer by 146, while there was an increase of 116 Chinese voters.
The Tenang Test

The contest for Tenang seat will also be a test on the influence and popularity of BN and Pakatan, especially to those directly involved. This would be the 14th by-election since the 2008 General Election (aka political tsunami) and possibly the last (or second last) for the country since the law does not require any more from March next year. This being the case, it will become a testing ground for both the BN and Pakatan before the 13th general election that’s expected to be held this year.

For Umno, winning is not enough. They have to make a firm statement with this one to show that these parts are and will always be their stronghold. Umno leaders have already stated their goal of winning Tenang a bigger margin and they are very confident that the Chinese there are swinging to their side. Umno Information Chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan said chances were bright for the BN to secure more than the 5,500-vote majority it had secured for the seat in the general election in 2004. Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has also said he is confident the BN would retain the seat.

For PAS, it’s time for them to make amends for their dismal performance in their own stronghold state. So far they had lost in Galas and and Manik Urai – both state seats in Kelantan, which the party has ruled since 1990. The battle for Tenang would be a test case for Pakatan's election machinery and whether its three component parties are able to act as one. It will also reveal whether its much hyped ‘100 days reform program’, unveiled at its recent national convention, has any impact on the electorate.

In a bigger picture, while the Malay votes are considered to be already in BN's bag, it is crucial for both sides to reach out to, and gauge the support of, the non-Malays – which form 52 percent of the 14,592 electorates -- as it could provide some indication of how the Chinese and Indians will vote in the next general election.
Voting Trend in Tenang
In the 2004 general election, BN won Tenang with a 5,517-vote majority. This was halved in 2008, with BN retaining the seat by 2,492 votes. In both elections, the late incumbent Datuk Sulaiman Taha faced off with PAS candidate Mohd Saim Siran.

Chinese voters make up a whopping 39 percent of the Tenang electorate while the Indian community has 12 percent. The Malay voters make up about 49 percent. In BN’s victory in 2008, they lost in the three polling districts where there are a significantly large number of Chinese voters. Also, at that time, Tee Yong lost to DAP over non-Malay support, but won overall due to solid support for BN from the Malays.

Statistics also show that in 2008, the PAS candidate secured between 50 percent and 67 percent of votes in Chinese-majority areas. In Labis Tengah, for example, where 96 percent of voters are Chinese, PAS garnered 66.8 percent. On top of that, the declining majority of BN's candidate in the area in the last election has also made the effort harder for BN as the non-Malay voters, particularly the Chinese, appear to be leaning towards the opposition, with the BN winning mostly due to the solid Malay support.

According to Johor DAP Chairman Dr Boo Cheng Hau, detailed analysis showed that in the 2008 general election, Chinese voters backed DAP in the overall Labis parliamentary seat but shied away from PAS in the Tenang state seat.

"At the parliamentary level, about 70 percent of Tenang constituents voted for the DAP instead of BN's MCA. But at the state level, only 58 percent of them voted for PAS. The trend is also prevalent among the Indians voters," said Dr Boo.

Tenang has 13 voting areas – Kampung Redong, Pekan Ayer Panas, Ladang Labis Utara, Bandar Labis Timor, Bandar Labis Tengah, Labis, Felda Tenang, Sawah Bahru, Tenang Station, Ladang Bukit Dato, Felda Chemplak Barat, Felda Chemplak and Chemplak. The Chinese-majority areas are Bandar Labis Timor, Bandar Labis Tengah and Labis.

Malay voters are concentrated in the federal land schemes of Felda Chemplak, Felda Chemplak Barat and Felda Tenang, while most Indian voters reside in Ladang Bukit Dato and Ladang Labis Utara.

Showdown: The Battle of the Two Chuas

In the fight for Chinese votes, two Johorean Chinese big guns are pitted against each other. Both former health ministers, MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek and PKR vice president and Johor chief, Chua Jui Meng are expected to be the main men to take care of the business of garnering Chinese support in Tenang.

The stakes are high for Soi Lek. This by-election would also provide a measure of Soi Lek's political standing after his comeback (following his infamous sex DVD scandal of 2007 and internal bickering in MCA) in his defeat of incumbent Ong Tee Keat and former president Ong Ka Ting for the MCA leadership. It will be a test of how much clout Soi Lek still has in the Chinese community especially after the sex scandal that came to light in 2007. The Tenang seat is located in Labis, Soi Lek's former parliamentary constituency now held by his son, Tee Yong. The son, who is deputy minister of agriculture and agro-based industry, has been described as a “rising star” in MCA. Soi Lek also has support from Labis MCA chief Tan Hock Hong, the state assemblymen helming Bekok, the other state seat in Labis.

Soi Lek has been making efforts to revitalize MCA’s waning popularity by pushing for a greater voice in BN. His attempts may have gotten the attention of the Chinese people but it has landed him in trouble a few times with several top Umno leaders, who have publicly rejected his views and chastised him for going against BN’s ideals. This is the time for the MCA leader to prove his worth and solidify his position as well as his party’s credibility, ability and relevance within BN.

As for former MCA vice president and Bakri MP, Chua Jui Meng, who was recently reappointed as PKR vice president, the Tenang by-election will be the perfect time for him to prove his mettle in his home state. He has quite significant support among segments of the Johor Chinese and capable of throwing a spanner into BN's strategy – which will be advantageous to PAS. However, we can’t say we know yet of the local sentiments on the recent revoking of Jui Meng’s datukship by the Johor Sultan. Regardless, he definitely has his work cut out for him as he has to take the task of swaying the Chinese to vote for the Islamic PAS.

Their focus is on the Chinese majority areas such as Bandar Labis Timor, Bandar Labis Tengah and Labis where in the last general election, the PAS candidate obtained between 50 to 67 per cent of the votes. For instance, in Bandar Labis Tengah where 96 percent of the voters were Chinese, PAS, which contested the Tenang seat, obtained 66.8 percent.

Let the Battle Begin

It will definitely be an uphill battle for Pakatan in Tenang as its popularity has receded following BN's recent by-election wins. According to political analysts, this trend is closely related to reforms initiated by prime minister Najib Razak.

Umno and PAS will continue their fight for the Malay vote, focusing on the three Felda settlements, all of which Mazlan Aliman, who is behind the PAS-linked Persatuan Anak-Anak Felda or "Anak", is reported to have admitted to be Umno redoubts.

MCA will be focusing on delivering Chinese votes and prove it has won back enough support to guarantee a BN win. They would likely use its “fear-mongering” tactics by harping on the PAS’ Islamic state stance to sway voters and scare the non-Malay electorate.

Since Tenang has never fallen to the opposition, Pakatan is aiming to reduce BN's majority. The opposition will likely expound on the six-month suspension of four of its MPs, including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. But before any significant dent can be made, they have to at least secure 80 percent of Chinese votes. The opposition may have won eight post-March 2008 by-elections since the first in Permatang Pauh but only three seats changed hands – Kuala Terengganu (from BN to PAS), Hulu Selangor (PKR to BN) and Galas (PAS to BN). Meanwhile, BN won three of the four by-elections – Hulu Selangor, Galas and Batu Sapi – last year. Sibu was wrested by the DAP from the Sabah United People's Party (SUPP).

According to DAP MP Anthony Loke, MCA is pretty much a gone case and Soi Lek has his work cut out for him.

“MCA has to go all out to win this to save their faces, to save their relevance in BN. If they cannot win the Chinese votes, there is no longer a future for MCA and Chua Soi Lek; it is the end of the story for them,” Loke told a local news portal.

Most from the opposition pact believes that Pakata’s greatest challenge would be in convincing the Chinese voters to back a PAS candidate and to allay their fears over the Islamic state issue. Figures from 2008 General Election proved that the Chinese voters had backed DAP in Labis but had shied away from PAS in the Tenang vote.

“At the Labis parliamentary level, 70 percent of Tenang constituents voted for DAP instead of MCA. But at state level, only 58 percent voted for PAS,” DAP MP Tony Pua told a local news portal.

“Among the Indians, this trend was similar but on a smaller scale,” he said.

Pua also admitted to Pakatan’s likely failure in the Malay areas, pointing out that Umno’s large vote bank would come from the over 3,800 voters in Tenang’s three Felda settlements – Felda Cempelak, Felda Cempelak Barat and Felda Tenang. Pua explained that in 2008 elections, Pakatan had only managed to garner 17 percent, 18 percent and 19 percent of votes in the three Felda areas respectively. While for Pakatan, Pua said Tenang was more a “green field”, an unchartered territory that the opposition would use to extract additional gains for the next general election.

Pua is also aware that Soi Lek has a good rapport in Labis/Tenang and not only among the Chinese community but also the Malays and Indians which is definitely advantageous in boosting BN’s score.

The by-election in Tenang will see Umno candidate, former Rengit assistant district officer Mohd Azhar Ibrahim contend against  Labis Wanita PAS head, Normala Sudirman.Polling will be held on Jan 30.

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