Why PAS sees victory in Chinese-majority Taiping

Local PAS leader Fakhruddin Abdul Aziz thinks the PAS candidate, Ibrahim Ismail, can gain from split votes.

TAIPING: Where political analysts foretell doom for PAS in a three-cornered fight in Chinese-majority Taiping, the Islamist party instead sees the possibility of success.

Mohamad Fakhrudin Abdul Aziz, deputy leader of the local PAS division, said PAS could have the edge because of the area’s racial composition, and the choice of candidates from Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan.

The Taiping electorate is evenly split between Malay and Chinese voters with only an 8% difference between the respective populations. Malay voters make up an estimated 38% of the total, Chinese voters an estimated 46%, and Indians and others make up the rest.

Fakhrudin said PAS was fielding Ibrahim Ismail in Taiping, and hoped that his being Malay would draw some Malay votes away from both Pakatan Haparan and Barisan Nasional, who are putting up Chinese candidates.

“We also expect the Chinese votes to be split between PH and BN. So we believe there is a chance we can win, otherwise, we won’t contest.”

Another challenge in Kamunting was the large postal voter base. “There are 3,900 postal voters in Kamunting, and traditionally, their votes benefit BN.”

The party’s Taiping candidate, Ibrahim, 53, works for a travel company. Originally from Bagan Serai, he grew up in Taiping. He is married, and has eight children.

Fakhrudin himself will contest Kamunting state seat for a second time. It is the only Malay-majority state seat in the Taiping parliamentary constituency, and contains most of the Malay population in Taiping.

PAS is not fielding candidates in the other two state seats, Aulong and Pokok Assam, which have overwhelmingly Chinese electorates.

In 2013, Fakhrudin came agonisingly close to defeating BN’s Mohammad Zahir Abdul Khalid, losing by just 887 votes.

PAS was then a partner with DAP and PKR in the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat.

Fakhrudin also said the Taiping contest was important to PAS, giving the party a platform to share its struggles with voters outside Kamunting.

“It gives a chance to tell the people our success in running Kelantan and dispel any mistruths leveled against the party.”

Fakhrudin PAS acknowledged had lost some Chinese support in the constituency after Pakatan Rakyat broke up, but are trying to regain support.

“We have translated our manifesto in Chinese and Tamil, and we do go and meet the non-Muslims, some are willing to listen and others say they’ve been misinformed about PAS.”

Fakhrudin said the people’s biggest concerns were the cost of living and a lower quality of life.

“Many people here appreciate BR1M because they are struggling. This is where BN is successful in attracting voters who are poorer.

“What we do is explain to them that BN policies like the goods and services tax (GST) causes prices to increase and that BR1M won’t help much in the long run.”

PAS intends to abolish the tax, ensure that welfare programmes benefit those most in need, and create more employment opportunities.

Click here to get live updates throughout the GE14 season