SEREMBAN, Negeri Sembilan: The political showdown for the Rantau by-election begins on Saturday (Mar 30), with opposition coalition Barisan Nasional believed to have an edge in the race.
The nomination for the by-election in the state seat will be held for one hour from 9am on Saturday before the returning officer announces the candidates.
Prior to nomination day, the contenders were expected to be United Malays National Organisation’s (UMNO) deputy president and former Negeri Sembilan chief minister Mohamad Hasan, as well as Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) Rembau deputy chief S Streram.
On Nov 16, the Election Commission (EC) allowed an election petition filed by Dr Streram, who said he was denied entry to submit his nomination form during the general election last May as he did not have a name tag or pass issued by the commission.
Dr Streram claimed that the EC had failed to inform him when collecting the nomination form that he needed a name tag or pass to enter the nomination centre on nomination day. As a result, Mr Mohamad won the seat unopposed.
His victory was later declared null and void, triggering the by-election in Rantau, Negeri Sembilan
Polling is on Apr 13 and early voting on Apr 9.
Mr Mohamad, a three-term Rantau assemblyman, is expected to score a comfortable victory in the UMNO stronghold.
On Friday, however, he cautioned against complacency. “The task is difficult. I need to convince the voters that they need an effective opposition team to monitor and conduct the check and balance towards the current government,” he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.
“I hope voters would not be swayed by (the) perception that I would be able to win. This will end up with them not coming out to vote at all because they would be confident that I would win.”
He noted that there have been rumours of punters betting on the outcome of the election, allegedly aimed at influencing the result. There have also been rumours of him winning with a 3,000 votes majority, he added.
“Such rumours would only lead voters to cast their votes just because they want to reduce the voting percentage for me. This is not good and it is dangerous,” he said.
UPHILL BATTLE FOR PKR
On the other hand, PKR appears to have been rocked by infighting following the resignation of federal lawmaker Nural Izzah Anwar from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
She resigned from the committee after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced that Mr Ronald Kiandee, a lawmaker from his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, would remain as PAC chairman. This goes against Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) election pledge that the PAC chairman should be an opposition parliamentarian.
In an interview with the Straits Times last weekend, she referred to Dr Mahathir as a former dictator and said she was “heartbroken” by PH’s slow delivery of its campaign promises.
Her comments drew criticism from Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, who is also from PKR. Mr Azmin tweeted: “This country needs doers who are prepared to tough it out all the way, not cry babies.”
Defending his daughter, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim said that the minister should “cool down”. He added that Ms Nurul Izzah’s remarks were directed generally against the PH government and not specifically at Dr Mahathir.
On Thursday, Mr Anwar downplayed the rift within his party, saying that the differences in opinion were a small issue and would not affect the Rantau campaign.
“(It’s) a small matter, we focus on the election. Differences of opinion are allowed ... the difference of opinion is small but now we have to focus on the Rantau by-election and economy, I am consistent on this,” said Mr Anwar.
“Everyone has agreed to campaign, there is no need to fight.”
The Rantau constituency has 29,926 registered electors.
More than 55 per cent of the electorate are Malay. Around 26 per cent of the voters are Indian, while just under 19 per cent are Chinese.
The Rantau by-election is the seventh since last May’s general election. By-elections have been held for the Sungai Kandis state seat; Balakong and Seri Setia state seats; Port Dickson parliamentary seat; Cameron Highlands parliamentary seat and Semenyih state seat.