KUALA LUMPUR: With polling day for the 14th general election just 10 days away, BN and opposition parties are upping the ante in neck and neck fights, especially in “hot seats” nationwide.
The stakes are high. Any calculated strategy or decision made during the campaigning period could either successfully or disastrously tilt the support base for the contesting parties.
Apart from having to work hard to defend the 49 parliamentary seats, which recorded a slim majority vote of fewer than 3,000 votes in the GE13, both BN and the opposition this time also face a great challenge from popular personalities as candidates.
The hot seats contested by popular candidates make it difficult to predict which party will win.
Here’s a look at some of the seats which will be the focus during GE14.
Langkawi, which will see a three-cornered fight, is set to be one of the main battlegrounds between BN and Pakatan Harapan in the north of Peninsular Malaysia.
Although incumbent Nawawi Ahmad won with a comfortable 11,861-vote majority in a three-cornered fight during the last election, this time he will have to face a heavyweight, namely former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who will be contesting under the PKR symbol after joining the opposition and being appointed chairman of PPBM last year.
The other challenger for the Langkawi parliamentary seat is Langkawi PAS division chief Zubir Ahmad.
However, according to University of Malaya Socio-Cultural Department senior lecturer Assoc Prof Awang Azman Awang Pawi, the extent of Mahathir’s influence on the duty-free island, and whether he will be able to cause an “upset” for BN, is still uncertain.
In the east coast, Awang Azman predicts a fierce battle in the Bachok parliamentary seat as its incumbent, Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, of PAS, won with a razor-thin margin of 201 votes in GE13.
Bachok will see a three-cornered fight between Mara chairman Awang Adek Hussin (BN), Mohd Zulkifli Zakaria (PKR) and PAS Youth chief Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abd Aziz.
Azman believes the fight will mainly be between Awang Adek and Nik Abduh in the seat, with both having an even chance of winning.
“Awang Adek, as chairman of Mara, is seen to be able to benefit the people there if he is elected. Nik Abduh is the son of the late Mursyidul Am of PAS Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, but he is also seen as being Umno-friendly.
“So, all this will play a factor in affecting the voting pattern in Bachok,” he said.
In the central region, the hot seat to look out for is Bentong, Pahang. The seat, which has been held by MCA president Liow Tiong Lai for the past four terms is critical, as it will either make or break Liow’s political career.
In the GE13, he was only able to defend the seat with a majority of 379 votes. An even more significant outcome of the result is that it would determine MCA’s survival in the country’s political landscape.
Azman is of the opinion that in order to defend the seat, Liow, who is facing a three-cornered fight with Wong Tuck (PKR) and N Balasubramaniam (PAS) should place his bet on Malay voters, who constitute 43% of the 67,359 registered voters in the constituency.
Likewise, the Teluk Intan parliamentary seat, which was won by Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong with a majority of 238 votes. He will be up against DAP heavyweight Nga Kor Ming and Ahmand Ramadzan Ahmad Daud from PAS this time around.
In Sabah, the Semporna parliamentary seat will receive special attention this time. Although its incumbent, Parti Warisan Sabah president Shafie Apdal, has been challenged by three other candidates, the focus will be between Shafie and the BN candidate, namely Semporna Umno information chief Ramlee Marahaban.
Shafie, who was Umno vice-president and regional and rural development minister before being sacked in July 2015, has strong grassroots support in the constituency which he has represented since 1995.
Ramlee, who is Sabah assistant finance minister, is seen to have the resources and access to help develop the area if he is elected.
Semporna will basically be a fight between a personality and a party, and only May 9 will tell us whether the loyalty of voters lies with Shafie or Umno.
Attention should also be given to the one-on-one fight between BN and DAP in the Stampin parliamentary seat in Sarawak, which is currently held by DAP.
SUPP president Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is also Batu Kawa assemblyman, will represent BN in taking on state DAP chairman Chong Chien Jen.
Azman opined that Sim, who is the Sarawak local government minister, is keen to prove he had his own political clout to win, and not merely due to the influence of former chief minister Adenan Satem as in the Sarawak state election in 2016.