TAIPING, 30 March 2009: Just minutes after the nomination process ended yesterday, supporters of candidates from both sides of the political got into overdrive mode to win the hearts and minds of the voters of the Bukit Gantang parliamentary constituency.
Rain or shine, it will not matter so long as the campaigners manage to get their respective messages across, especially when at the centre of this battle are the 14,955 Chinese Malaysian and 5,526 Indian Malaysian voters who will determine fate of the aspirants.
While the campaign for support from the majority 34,884 Malay Malaysian voters is already intense, the battle for the Chinese Malaysian and Indian Malaysian votes only started took a new height after the nominations yesterday.
Of the 38 polling stations in the constituency, the majority of voters are Malay Malaysians except for five stations — Kuala Sapetang, Jalan Mengala, Simpang Baru, Pasir Hitam Trong and Sungai Rotan.
“The majority of the Chinese [Malaysian] voters are in Kuala Sepetang. There are about 4,000 Chinese [Malaysian] voters there followed by Simpang with about 1,000 and Pasir Hitam together with Sungai Rotan having some 500 voters,” said Bukit Gantang MCA chairperson Datuk Ho Cheng Wang.
Therefore it was not surprising that immediately after nominations, Barisan Nasional (BN) top leaders such as MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat went straight to Kuala Sepetang to meet the voters there.
BN cautious of support
“In 2004, 70% of the Chinese [Malaysian] supported the BN. However, in the last general election, the support dropped to only 30%. That is why this time around, we are trying to convince them to support us this time,” said the BN candidate for Bukit Gantang, Ismail Saffian.
Ismail, who was the election director for the BN in Bukit Gantang during the last two general elections, said if Chinese Malaysian support for BN could be increased to by about 40 to 45%, then BN would have a chance of winning the seat.
“Based on my calculations, if the Chinese [Malaysian] support can be increased by 40%, then we will have a chance to win,” he said, adding that in the last general election, PAS actually did not win the Malay [Malaysian] votes.
Ismail said PAS only obtained 40% Malay Malaysian votes in 2004 and 45% in 2008 general election.
“In the last election, the late YB Roslan (Shaharum) had won because he managed to get 20% non-Malay [Malaysian] votes. With the 40% plus the 20% Chinese [Malaysian] and Indian [Malaysian] votes, he managed to win with a majority of 1,500 votes,” he said.
The political operative said the majority of the Chinese Malaysian voters are from Kuala Sapetang, Simpang Halt, Kampung Port Weld, Sungai Sapetang Kechil, Pekan Port Weld and Jalan Mangala in Kuala Sapetang.
The rest of them are in Kampung Temerloh, Pasir Hitam Trong, Sungai Tinggi in Trong and Pengkalan Aor, Simpang (Lama and Baru), Kawasan JKR and Larut Tin in Changkat Jering.
Knowing very well the efforts being made by the BN, opposition leaders particularly from the DAP and PKR intensified their campaigning in Kuala Sepetang last night by organising more ceramah.
DAP strategist and member of parliament for Bukit Bendera Liew Chin Tong said they were not worried with the three-corner contest in this by-election but were concerned how the Malay Malaysian and Chinese Malaysian vote would go as the constituency is considered as rural.
“Although we have a better chance, we are still very cautious about it.
“The only good thing is that the Chinese [Malaysian] acceptance of Mohammad Nizar is high,” he said.
And starting today, almost on a daily basis — there will be mega “ceramahs” organised by both sides of the political divide, in order to present their side of the arguments to the voters. — Bernama