We Might Not Vote Along Party Line Sungai Buloh Voters In Dilemma

GE15 | PKR’s stronghold Sungai Buloh in Selangor is now a hot seat after the outgoing health minister Khairy Jamaluddin was named the candidate for BN to contest there.
Malaysiakini’s visit to Sungai Buloh showed that many Pakatan Harapan supporters are “having a dilemma” as they support PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as their prime minister’s candidate but don’t like to see Khairy lose.
Some even explained that they have become pickier to vote and that they might vote based on “personality instead of along party lines” on polling day.
As for Khairy, it didn’t take long for him to work his charm as right after the nomination process last Saturday, he hopped on a motorcycle and visited some Umno veterans in Kampung Melayu Subang Tambahan.
The village is located in the Pinggiran Subang polling district, where PKR garnered 1,170 or 56.2 percent votes in the previous election. In other words, it used to be PKR’s stronghold. In comparison, MIC/BN only gained 399 or 19.16 percent votes.
According to an Umno grassroots leader in the village, who only wanted to be known as Shahrul, Khairy’s visit was short but successful in attracting inactive party members to participate.
Umno’s Kampung Melayu Subang Tambahan grassroots leader Shahrul“Although this seat has a majority of Malays, traditionally, it was contested by MIC, and BN lost it for three terms.
“Khairy is contesting this time around and, suddenly, the whole Umno branch became excited and the machinery is having higher morale than before.
“For instance, I was surprised that many of Umno’s members joined us in the earlier house-to-house visit. They are not committee members but they participated in this event which was informed late last night (Sunday),” Shahrul said.
Many Sungai Buloh voters feel that Khairy was sent to this ”pitch-black” dangerous seat because he dared to disobey his party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
However, this might help Khairy in distancing himself from Umno/BN negative images.
An Umno supporter who chose to remain anonymous said he was campaigning for BN because his close relative is an Umno leader.
However, he chose to vote for Harapan on polling day, saying “we are free to choose who to vote. (Former prime minister) Najib Abdul Razak’s 1MDB scandal is so bad, so how can the youngsters accept BN?
“Many of my colleagues agreed that they’re disappointed with BN… so I think it’s best for Khairy to contest here,” the Umno supporter, who did not want to be named, said.
Hard to choose
Meanwhile, voters from nearby polling districts are also in a dilemma on who to vote for and declined to be any coalition’s deposits.
This is especially obvious in areas where Harapan and BN’s votes have been close, such as Kampung Kubu Gajah and Paya Jaras Hilir.
In the 2018 general election, BN only lost around 200 or 10 percent votes to Harapan in these two polling districts.
Meanwhile, another voter, 57-year-old Kamarul Zaman from Kampung Kubu Gajah, was sympathetic towards Khairy, describing the incumbent Rembau MP as a capable minister but was fielded in a “dead” zone.
The retired teacher also seemed unconvinced about PKR candidate R Ramanan, mainly due to his involvement in a fraud case.
“We can’t vote for a candidate merely based on his party. We have to look into the candidates’ backgrounds as well.”
Kamarul’s son Aufa, 30, who is a doctor in a public hospital, admitted that he will regret it if Khairy loses in Sungai Buloh.
“The professionals like myself are in a dilemma. We are people from the city who have been supporting Harapan, but in terms of the candidate’s charisma and experience, we prefer Khairy. He was brave to go against his own party president,” said Aufa.
Voters Kamarul Zaman and his son AufaSome Chinese voters also share the same sentiment. Lim Siew Mei, 56, who voted PKR for the previous three general elections said she is now hesitant as “PKR is very chaotic”.
“Actually, Khairy is not bad… my feelings are very conflicting, very hard to choose. No matter who I vote for, it doesn't feel right,” lamented the hairdresser from Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh.
When pressed on her view on PKR, Lim said: “I don’t know how to explain.”
Harapan’s bigger narrative
Ramanan was the former MIC treasurer-general. He resigned after the High Court in Kuala Lumpur found him to have obtained RM5.5 million fraudulently by presenting a forged letter in a civil case in 2014.
He then joined PKR.
Ramanan told Malaysiakini that the civil case was just a business misunderstanding and had been resolved amicably.
During the campaign, PKR tends to avoid mentioning Ramanan’s personality. Instead, the campaign strategy is on bigger narratives such as “vote Harapan, Anwar as PM” or “one vote for KJ = one vote for Zahid”.
Harapan’s Sungai Buloh candidate R RamananHowever, the Malays find it difficult to resonate with the saying, “voting for KJ equals voting for Zahid”.
Hanafi Abbas, 67, from Paya Jaras Hilir thinks that this is merely the political rhetoric of PKR leaders out of personal interest.
“That is what the political elites say, we as orang bawahan (the ordinary people on the ground) have different feelings. They don’t walk around in our areas, but they want us to reject Khairy.
“For us, Khairy is a new option. He worked hard in Parliament and he was not a coward in the party,” said Hanafi.
Interestingly, the self-employed technician preferred Anwar to be the prime minister, but his vote might not go to Ramanan.
Malaysiakini interviewed Hanafi a day before the nomination day. Although PKR has announced Ramanan as its candidate, Hanafi seemed unwilling to accept.
Instead, he wished that a new and higher-profile candidate would be fielded.
“(My vote) would be on who PKR was going to field. We don’t know Ramanan’s background. For instance, one side is a ministerial-level candidate who you are familiar with, another side is someone you are unfamiliar with. Who would you vote for?”
Non-Malay areas remain Harapan strongholds
Despite all these, areas with a majority of Chinese and Indian voters might remain as Harapan strongholds, with several voters expressing their dissatisfaction towards BN, mainly because of corruption scandals, rising prices and supply chain disruptions.
A 37-year-old shop owner from Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh, who only wants to be known as Chong, said: “Khairy is not bad, but he is from the wrong side, he wears the wrong party shirt.”
Sungai Buloh is a typical urban mixed seat, with 66 percent Malays, 22 percent Chinese, 11 percent Indians and two percent other races. In GE14, PKR’s R Sivarasa won with a majority of 26,634 votes.
R Ramanan making his rounds during his GE15 campaign in Sungai BulohAlthough Khairy managed to stabilise BN’s base and possibly attract Harapan’s swing voters in Sungai Buloh, it is still seen as difficult to penetrate PKR’s overwhelming advantage as PKR has held the seats for more than three terms.
Even more, Sungai Buloh is this time facing a seven-cornered fight, with the PAS/PN influences in Sungai Buloh can’t simply be overlooked.
In 2018, the PAS candidate garnered 16,997 votes, more than MIC’s votes. While Khairy and Ramanan are facing a close fight, PAS candidate Mohd Ghazali Md Hamin might be the kingmaker. - Mkini

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