By Mohd Faizal Hassan
PONTIAN, Nov 2 -- The campaign for the Tanjung Piai Parliamentary by-election which began after the nomination this morning will witness the emergence of a new political ideology and a contest among erstwhile friends.
This scenario could trigger a healthy competition to seek who is better other than the factor of different backgrounds to whet the interest of about 53,000 voters in the Tanjung Piai Parliamentary constituency.
The by-election stage this time would see a six-cornered fight involving the Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate Karmaine Sardini, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng of Barisan Nasional (BN), Wendy Subramaniam,(Gerakan).
Datuk Dr Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz (Barisan Jemaah Islamiah (Berjasa)) and two independent candidates, namely, tuition centre founder Dr Ang Chuan Lock and businesswoman Faridah Aryani Abdul Ghaffar, representing All-Malaysia Taxi Coalition (GTSM).
The ruling party candidate, Karmaine Sardini, 66, who is a Tanjung Piai Bersatu Division chief, regarded the contest as a platform to bring back the support of the people of Tanjung Piai for the government.
This by-election would be the second for Karmaine, an architect and mosque imam, to contest in an election. He contested for the first time when he was the Bersatu candidate at the 14th General Election (GE-14) for the Pontian Parliamentary seat against Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan (BN) but lost with a 833-vote majority.
The issue bandied about by some in the communities was the age factor and the credibility of Karmaine who had lost prior to this.
A Bersatu member who only wanted to be identified as Elmi said Karmaine would need to work hard to carve his name in the hearts of the voters and also on the lips of netizens if he wanted to be picked as an elected representative.
But Karmaine still had the strength to pull voters - the support of the government whether at the federal or state level which are controlled by PH, an advantage in the aspect of bringing development.
The Pontian and the Tanjung Piai Parliamentary constituencies are located in the Pontian district, in fact a part of the town of Pontian is in the Pontian Parliament seat and another in the Tanjung Piai Parliament constituency.
In the opposition camp, BN picked Wee, who is a former incumbent, to return to contest, despite having lost to the late Datuk Dr Md Farid Md Rafiq who represented PH in GE-14.
Wee was a two-term Tanjung Piai Member of Parliament from 2008 to 2018, and prior to that, was the Pekan Nanas State Assemblyman from 2004 to 2008. The Pekan Nanas state seat is in the Tanjung Piai Parliamentary area.
Despite being labelled a ‘’recycled’’ candidate, Ahmad Maslan, when met by Bernama, said BN was confident of the choice of the candidate to create a shock later.
This by-election was also regarded as extraordinary when a BN component, which left the coalition after losing in GE-14, Gerakan would also be fielding its national deputy secretary general Wendy Subramaniam as candidate.
The questions that cropped up was the capability of the party to move alone without the guidance of its BN colleagues after weathering numerous political episodes together for a very long time.
Geostrategist Azmi Hassan said Gerakan needed time to stand impressively as an independent party as it was seen as not fully ready for the election this time.
The ideological collision also involved Berjasa which would field its president Dr Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz as a candidate whereby the move was made after alleging that Islam was being bullied after more than a year of PH rule, and the BN candidate was regarded as not bringing the Malay-Islam aspiration.
Commenting on the six-corner tussle, political veteran and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said the by-election was their respective litmus test whether they could win the attention and support of the voters, being rejected by voters or labelled as mere noise-makers and trouble-makers for short term euphoria.
The Tanjung Piai Parliamentary seat was prior to this held by the late Dr Md Farid Md Rafik. He won the seat on the Bersatu ticket in GE-14 by obtaining 21,255 votes to beat Wee (20,731 votes) and PAS candidate Nordin Othman (2,962 votes).
The Election Commission (EC) fixed Nov 16 for polling and Nov 12 for early voting. The by-election is being held after Dr Md Farid, 42, died of heart complications on Sept 21.