PENANTI, May 28 – That PKR will win the Penanti by-election is a foregone conclusion with the only debate being the margin of victory in the party’s political fortress.
It would seem almost automatic that PKR, which has not issued any predictions, will win with a wider margin since Barisan Nasional (BN) is not contesting and only three independents stand in its way.
However, several factors could affect this. The party’s biggest worry is that its supporters could become complacent due to expectations that the seat is already in the bag and not turn up to vote.
As such, PKR is going all out to make sure as many voters turn up as possible to cast their ballots in Penanti, which is under the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat held by the party’s de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“The margin will depend on the turn out,” said PKR’s election director Saifuddin Nasution, adding that the level of support for PKR is “stable” and comparable to the Permatang Pauh parliamentary by-election last August where it secured 7,346 out of 12,657 votes cast within Penanti ward, giving it a victory margin of 2,219 or 17.5 per cent.
Anwar won the parliamentary seat with 31,949 votes, getting an increased majority of 17,652 against Umno’s Arif Shah’s 14,297 votes.
While the voter turnout last year was about 82 per cent, Saifuddin expects a lower turn out this time of between 50 and 70 per cent, depending on whether fence sitters and Umno supporters turn up to vote.
“We will focus on winning over the fence sitters and Umno supporters,” said Saifuddin.
The second factor is independent candidate Aminah Abdullah’s allegations that PKR had offered inducements for the former Penang PKR Wanita chief to either withdraw from the by-election or rejoin the party if she won the election, claims that the party have denied.
The fallout so far seems minimal as far as the outcome is concerned as observers say that Penanti voters have already made up their minds and are unlikely to change it.
Tok Guru Nik Abdul Aziz (centre), Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (left) and PKR candidate Dr. Mansor Othman arriving at the Ceramah Perdana in Guar Jering, Penanti last night.
Even Permatang Pauh Umno division chief Datuk Abdul Jalil Abdul Majid says that while there might be an impact, it will be “slight”.
“The impact will not be great as people will think such things are normal during by-elections,” he said.
Many Umno voters are expected to either stay home or go on organised group tours to holiday spots such as the shopping town of Wang Kelian near the Thai border.
If this scenario holds true, then PKR’s majority could potentially improve by as much as 5,127 votes, which is how many votes the BN candidate got in the last by-election and assuming a repeat performance by PKR.
“Those who are not going on the group tours will stay home. Why waste time voting if your party is not contesting?” one BN supporter told The Malaysian Insider.
However, it would also mean that BN can point to the low voter turnout as a sign of protest against what BN is accusing is a political game by PKR of forcing by-elections, an accusation that PR has rubbished.
Disgruntled supporters of the former Penanti state assembyman Mohd Fairus Khairuddin who quit the seat amidst controversy could however, draw 200 to 300 votes away at most according to one PKR executive committee member.
The Pakatan Rakyat, which rules Penang, is not taking things for granted as it is well aware that BN would like to see it stumble in its own backyard.
PKR, and to a lesser extent PAS and DAP, have gone all out to blanket the town with banners and operation centres. They’ve also put together comprehensive outreach programmes like ceramahs with top leaders and door-to-door canvassing, so much so it sometimes feels like using a hammer to kill an ant.
Saifuddin disclosed that out of 3,374 voters surveyed by PKR in Penanti so far, 65 per cent believed in PKR’s mission and 59 per cent were satisfied with Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng.
Fifty eight per cent were satisfied with Anwar while only 28 per cent were satisfied with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Sixty five per cent also believed the NEP affirmative action policy benefitted only rich and connected Malays. Forty five per cent agreed that the Pakatan government in Penang took care of Malays while 30 per cent thought it threatened the Malays. In general, Pakatan’s approval ratings were higher for those under the age of 45.
Taken together, it appears likely that PKR will not only win the by-election but see its margin of victory increase largely due to the BN’s non-participation, although the result could be seen as marred by a lower voter turnout – MalaysianInsider