Balakong voters willing to give Pakatan more time

Gan Pei Ling Christopher Rabin

MCA's Tan Chee Teong (left) and Pakatan Harapan's Wong Siew Ki are in a straight fight for the Balakong state seat. The by-election will be held tomorrow. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, September 7, 2018.

PAKATAN Harapan politicians have described tomorrow’s Balakong and Seri Setia by-elections as a referendum on the pact’s first 100 days in Putrajaya.

To this end, most of the voters – comprising different ethnicities, genders and ages – The Malaysian Insight met in Balakong said they were willing to give PH more time to prove itself.

“PH is still new. MCA leaders like (deputy president) Wee Ka Siong are being too harsh on them,” said middle-age housewife Lian Siew Lan, from Cheras 9th Mile, at a Hungry Ghost Festival dinner yesterday.

MCA, which is seeking a “rebirth” through the Balakong polls, has criticised PH’s failure to fulfil most of its 100-day promises, throughout the 21-day campaign period.

It will be the first time Barisan Nasional’s Chinese component contests using the party logo of a 14-pointed star, and not BN’s better-known weighing scales. It is also the first time PH contests using the pact’s logo.

“I have seen both the PH and MCA candidates. We have known MCA candidate Tan Chee Teong since he was young,” said Lian.

“We also knew the late DAP assemblyman Eddie Ng. We were really sad when he died. We will vote for whoever can perform.”

Although she declined to say who she would vote for, she said PH should be given more time to deliver on its pledges, as the pact won federal power mere months ago.

The Balakong by-election was called following Ng’s death in a road accident on July 20.

In the May 9 general election, the PH candidate won by 35,538 votes, beating PAS (6,230 votes) and MCA (5,874 votes).

It remains to be seen whether PAS voters will vote for MCA, which has fiercely opposed hudud in the past, tomorrow.

Pakatan Harapan supporters seen at a Hungry Ghost Festival dinner in Balakong yesterday. The Election Commission is expecting a lower voter turnout tomorrow compared with the 14th general election, as it is not a high-stakes by-election. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, September 7, 2018.

The Election Commission is expecting a lower voter turnout compared with the 14th general election, as it is not a high-stakes by-election.

“We housewives will definitely go out to vote, but our husbands and children have to work, so they may not be able to vote.

Our relatives and children who are outstation won’t be flying back this time,” said Lian.

Her three sisters and two friends said their utmost wish as homemakers was for Putrajaya to lower the cost of living, and if possible, abolish the sales and services tax.

Lian’s youngest sister, Thiam Siew, said she earned RM2,000 a month as a tailor, while having to raise two teenage daughters with her husband.

“My daughters work on the weekends. We can’t afford to let them study overseas. They will have to further their studies locally.”

Chinese voters make up 60% of Balakong’s 62,219 registered voters, followed by Malays (31%) and Indians (9%).

PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi hit the campaign trail this week in a last-ditch attempt to woo Malay voters, as Chinese support for MCA remains lukewarm.

However, 48-year-old architect Muharram Adje Radjeman, from Bandar Tun Hussein Onn, is unconvinced that MCA, often seen to be subservient to Umno, can serve as an effective check and balance.

“I think they aren’t powerful enough as an opposition. If they want to be a good opposition, they should work for the betterment of the country.”

A real estate agent who wanted to be known only as Thomas said MCA had lost its credibility, having failed to fulfil its promises to serve the people.

Loyal Umno supporter Kamaruzaman Zainal and his wife are the exception rather than the norm in Balakong.

“Most of our family members support PH. We don’t. I believe (former Umno president) Najib (Razak) is innocent. PH has not fulfilled most of its election promises,” said the 50-year-old businessman from Bandar Tun Hussein Onn at a recent MCA ceramah.

“As citizens, we cannot just sit and watch. We must protest through our votes. This is our chance to express our feelings.”

PH candidate Wong Siew Ki, from DAP, is challenging Tan for the state seat.

The Seri Setia by-election, which will also be held tomorrow, will see PH’s Halimey Abu Bakar take on PAS’ Dr Halimah Ali. – September 7, 2018.

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