FEB 24 ― Post-505, the Opposition has proven its point. The non-Malays have abandoned Barisan Nasional but, as it turns out, the sway isn’t strong enough to topple the government.
And since the Sg Limau by-election, Malay leanings have remained undecided.
Instead of immediately gunning for the prime ministerial post, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is now zeroing in on Putrajaya in what could be described as a two-step strategy. The first is to secure the post of Selangor Menteri Besar. This will prepare him for the next step or challenge — that of the premiership.
Why Kajang? Why inflame this small town, which is better known for its satay, with a voter population size of about 40,000?
If Kajang was handpicked by Anwar, it must mean that it has many vantage points for a man with a burning ambition. The fact that he has declared more than 10,000 as the margin for victory shows that considerable homework has been done. For a start, there are about 48 per cent Malays, 42 per cent Chinese and 10 per cent Indians in the seat, which no longer makes it a BN stronghold.
Although the by-election is obviously a Malay play, it is also, ironically, an MCA seat. This reflects how moribund old politics has become in the new landscape. That Anwar has not even bothered to respond to the new MCA president’s statement — that MCA would bury him politically in Kajang —0 shows that Anwar knows his fate would not be decided by the Chinese voters.
His war room estimates give him a head start of 80 per cent support from non-Malays, well before MCA confirmed its candidate. He is already ‘assured’ of 16,000 votes among the Chinese and Indians.
The bigger play in Kajang is on Malay ground. More than 60 per cent of the Malays are unsure of Anwar’s stand as a Malay leader. The Malay ground is split three ways. By some estimates, his core Malay support in Pakatan is only about 25 per cent, with 20 per cent who would vote for Pakatan simply because it is Pakatan. Some 10-15 per cent of them are unsure. Anwar’s biggest hurdle in Pakatan is PAS, who may not agree with his self-appointment to lead Selangor.
Could Nurul Izzah surface to save Anwar’s premature game plan? There are those in Pakatan who feel it is imperative that the daughter come out to be seen campaigning for the father, especially since the Barisan candidate, Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, Is a woman.
Meanwhile, Umno could have up to 40 per cent support in Kajang but not all will vote for Barisan this time. Why not this time? The recent video by Teresa Kok has created furore among Malays as it is seen as anti-Malay and anti-Islam. The fact that neither was intended in the video also shows the gap of understanding between communities.
The Chinese community finds the anger quite bizarre because to them, it is ‘just another one of those parodies’ that they have seen. The Chinese have failed to see the difference between ‘mengkritik pemimpin Melayu’ and ‘menghina pemimpin Melayu’.
Another new dynamic in Kajang is that DAP has been unusually silent on the matter, allowing Anwar to run his campaign without the usual tactical move to use DAP to bring in the Chinese. The warnings are there that the terrain is unfavourable, with results already making no difference to the overall scorecard. This could also mean that the use of the racial and religious card, ripe for exploitation, will become irresistible.
Even if MCA intends to attack Anwar purely as a candidate, it can be misconstrued as ‘anti-Malay,’ given the current emotions. The lack of presence of DAP also means an absence of a familiar adversary, making voter communications challenging. MCA’s new team has come in on the back of an anti-CSL (Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek) sentiment, but are eager to prove to their grassroots that they will not cave in to Umno’s naysayers. This battle is not without risks for MCA as a severe loss on the Chinese ground could delay its entry into government much further than expected.
Meanwhile, Umno’s objective can’t be more different. They can’t allow Anwar to have more than 60 per cent (or 12,000) of the Malay votes regardless of how the Chinese-Indian votes add up. Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim enjoys more Malay support than Anwar and both Umno and PAS know it.
Kajang is a can of worms which didn’t need to be opened. The 80 per cent of Chinese-Indian votes will just be there to ensure a win for Anwar in Kajang but is actually inconsequential in measuring the strength of Malay power.
Kajang has just begun to be set aflame. Will the audience be focusing on the small play in the bigger drama or, the bigger stake in a big play?
* Fui K. Soong is CEO, Centre for Strategic Engagement Sdn Bhd (CENSE)
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.