LABIS: The Tenang Malay and Indian votes are considered “in the bag” for the Barisan Nasional (BN), but the 5,766 Chinese voters here – who make up 39% of the electorate – may still prove a headache to the BN.
And BN, especially the MCA, has much to worry about – and not just in Tenang.Opposition sources are predicting that at least 70% of the Chinese will vote for PAS candidate Normala Sudirman on polling day tomorrow.
Sewing up the Chinese votes could spell trouble for not only MCA in Johor but nationally; and that’s why the DAP machinery is all out to woo the Chinese here.
Political observers say that MCA’s credibility is at stake if MCA president Chua Soi Lek himself and his son Tee Yong, the Labis MP, can’t convince their own supporters to back BN in their own homeground.
Johor DAP chairman Dr Boo Cheng Hau even predicted that PAS is only 3% away from clinching a victory.
“This is possibly a historic moment for us and we’re fighting the best fight we can. This used to be a MCA stronghold, but not any more. We have 48.5% of the votes and BN 51.5%, so only 3% is needed for a win,” he said at a ceramah.
He told FMT that DAP expects 80% votes from the Chinese, 30% Malays and 40% to 50% from the Indians.
However, most of his colleagues were more conservative, though equally optimistic.
“We can’t win this seat due to the strong Felda votes,” said another opposition leader. “But if we put up a strong enought fight and push for 75% votes, we can see a crisis for MCA because two of its presidents hail from here.”
He noted that the crucial factors to gain more Chinese votes are the return of outstation voters and the support of elderly women, which DAP conceded was MCA’s forte.
Another leader, from PKR, said that a bigger Chinese turnout in Tenang, a well spread-out multiracial seat, could augur a takeover of Johor in future. But the votes of other races were crucial too.
In 2008, PAS secured between 50% and 67% of the votes in three main Chinese majority polling districts here, namely Labis Tengah, Labis Timur and Labis. This, according to some observers, put Chinese support for the opposition at 57% to 60%.
It is understood that MCA is aiming for a 5% swing in Chinese votes, but the Chinese component party of the ruling coalition seems to have a lower confidence than DAP.
“MCA must transform or else it will be very difficult. The DAP has really captured the minds of the people,” said an MCA leader, who wished to remain anonymous.
The leader, who has been in Tenang, admitted that Chinese response towards MCA has “not been so good”.
He said that Soi Lek’s handling of the independent Chinese school issue had disappointed many.
Tee Yong, the Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister, himself was more conservative in his estimates.
“We’re hoping for 50% of the Chinese votes,” Tee Yong said, adding that MCA had about 42% support from the Chinese the last time around.
Sources from the ground told FMT that BN is looking at securing a majority of some 3,000 votes.
“Malay votes are at about 80%, Indians 60%, while we expect Chinese votes to be at about 45% for BN,” said a political observer.
“The DAP predicts that it can bag up to 70% but it is using only Labis Tengah as a yardstick. The surrounding areas are actually better.”
“MCA’s support in Johor now is a bit low. The party is aiming for a 5% increase but I predict it wil get 3% at most,” she said.
A swing in Chinese votes would also mean that PAS has slowly succeeded in shedding its extremist Islamic image among the Chinese here.
Last night, Normala wished a crowd of mainly 100 Chinese here a Happy New Year.
“For Chinese New Year we usually want to change new clothes but this Jan 30, we want to change the government.
“Huan! (change) Huan! Huan!,” she cried.
Voting for the two candidates Normala and her BN opponent Mohd Azahar Ibrahim begins tomorrow morning and results are expected to be announced by 8pm.
Free Malaysia Today