BN must chip away at PAS majority in Kemaman, say observers

Diyana Ibrahim

Observers say despite the political winds of change blowing in the favour of PAS in Terengganu, Umno still has lingering influence in Kemaman. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 19, 2023.

AS BARISAN Nasional (BN) looks increasingly unlikely to win the by-election for the Kemaman seat, the former ruling coalition’s best bet in the polls is to reduce PAS’ majority, say observers.

They said the Islamist party is entrenched in the state and there had been no major issues there since the 2023 general election and recent state polls.

The December 2 by-election is a straight fight between BN’s Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor and PAS heavyweight Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, who is also the Rhu Rendang assemblyman.

The BN man is former army top brass.

The by-election was called after the Terengganu Election Court nullified the victory of Che Alias Hamid of PAS, who won the parliamentary seat in the general election last year.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Mazlan Ali said on paper, the Islamist party is the overwhelming favourite to regain the seat it lost on September 26 when the state election court nullified PAS’ Che Alias Hamid’s victory in the general election.

However, Mazlan said BN’s best bet is to dent the majority PAS gained in the GE.

“With PAS heavily favoured to win, Umno’s only goal is therefore to show an erosion of support in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition – in which PAS is a member – to stop its dominance in Terengganu,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

“They have to do that.”

Mazlan said BN has the opportunity to reduce PAS’ majority.

Among the many possible factors is a lower voter turnout, he added.

“It’s a factor to be considered because by-elections usually have their unique characteristics compared to general elections. Voter turnout is usually lower in by-elections.”

Ilham Centre executive director Hisomuddin Bakar says PAS will retain the Kemaman seat. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 19, 2023.

He said that could potentially favour BN as young voters who have helped PAS sweep all before them in the GE might not turn up.

Mazlan said despite the political winds of change blowing in the direction of PAS in Terengganu, Umno still has strength in the constituency.

“Therefore, we also need to consider Umno’s influence in Kemaman.”

Except for one term between 1999–2004 when KeAdilan’s Abdul Rahman Yusof won this Malay-Muslim majority seat, Umno had held the seat from the first time the seat was contested in 1959 to 2018.

“They have never lost except from 2018. Despite the changes in the political landscape, Umno still has a lingering influence in the constituency.

“So since you asked me if Umno can reduce PAS’s majority, in my opinion, yes.”

Muhamad Hisomuddin Bakar, the executive director of Ilham Centre, said PAS will retain the seat.

He also said the voting pattern of the GE will continue and this would definitely favour PAS.

“The voting pattern in any election will not differ much if the election is held within a period of less than six months from the original election.

“Unless there is a significant event or issue that can change voters’ minds, the voting pattern is unlikely to change much, and the advantage lies with PAS,” he said.

He added that this does not mean BN would just roll over and not provide a fight.

Hisomuddin said BN has every chance if the right strategy is implemented.

The Election Commission has set early voting on November 28 and polling day on December 2.

A total of 141,790 voters are expected to cast their ballots in the by-election.

In the last GE Che Alias won 65,714 votes in a four-way battle, defeating Ahmad Said of BN (38,535), Hasuni Sudin of Pakatan Harapan (8,340) and Rosli Ab Ghani of Pejuang (506). –  November 19, 2023.

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