Monday 22 Jul 2024
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GEORGE TOWN (June 17): The country’s two largest political coalitions are being strategic by fielding local candidates in the upcoming Sungai Bakap state by-election, which will officially commence on Saturday (June 22).

The Pakatan Harapan (PH)-Barisan Nasional (BN) camp under the unity government is fielding former northern branch director of Aminuddin Baki Institute Dr Joohari Ariffin, 60, from PKR, while Perikatan Nasional (PN) has named Nibong Tebal PAS vice-chief Abidin Ismail, 56, as its flag bearer, apparently to capitalise on the fact that they are home-grown candidates. 

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia senior lecturer in political science Jamaie Hamil believes that both candidates are well positioned to convince voters based on their community experience and local roots, following the narrow winning majority in the last state election.

He said Joohari can bank on his experience as a former civil servant and educator, while Abidin has the advantage of involvement in party and social work. However, both have the potential to resonate with Sungai Bakap voters as local sons.

Jamaie said that from an academic perspective, Joohari has the advantage, as he holds a PhD in management and educational leadership from Universiti Sains Malaysia, which may appeal to the middle class and youth.

"When choosing a candidate, people look at their place of origin, apart from education level, work experience, or how they can handle community issues, as these will be reflected in the role of an elected representative,” he said when contacted by Bernama on Monday.

Although there may be a multi-cornered contest, Jamaie considers the Sungai Bakap by-election as a fierce battle between PH-BN and PN, due to the slim majority of only 1,563 votes in the 2023 state election.

He added that PKR is certainly keen to reclaim the seat it held for three terms since 2008, before it was captured by PAS in the state election in August last year, and the latter will undoubtedly want to retain it.

"A majority of slightly over 1,500 votes is neither a white area for the incumbent, nor a black area for the challenger. This means that any equivalent party has a chance to win there, as it can be considered a grey area. If the majority is 2,000, then it is a black area," he said.

Joohari began his career as a teacher and retired from public service on Sept 1, 2023, while Abidin works in logistics, and was an assistant to the late Sungai Bakap seat holder, Nor Zamri Latiff.

Meanwhile, Academy of Sciences Malaysia fellow Professor Jayum Jawan said the Sungai Bakap by-election is not a contest of personalities, but a competition between parties representing different ideologies, namely PH and PN, or PKR, and PAS.

“It is also about a test of Malay support for Malay-dominated party PKR and Islamic PAS. Thus, PAS is expected to retain it, and losing it means dwindling support among Malays,” he said.

The Universiti Putra Malaysia political science professor said if PH-BN wins in Sungai Bakap, it is a sign that support for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his leadership is growing stronger, especially as the country heads towards the 16th general election.

The Sungai Bakap by-election is seen as a crucial battleground for PKR and PAS, as it will once again witness the clash between the two parties for the same seat nearly 10 months after the 2023 state election.

The Election Commission has set July 6 for polling for the Sungai Bakap by-election, with June 22 as the nomination day and July 2 for early voting.

The Sungai Bakap seat, with 39,279 voters comprising 39,222 ordinary voters and 57 police officers, fell vacant following the death of its incumbent Nor Zamri from PAS on May 24 due to stomach inflammation. 

In the last state election, Nor Zamri, who was the Nibong Tebal PAS chief, defeated PH candidate Nurhidayah Che Rose with a majority of 1,563 votes.

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