Independents’ power play in Melaka?

With talk of the rakyat being tired of politicians, could independent candidates affect the state elections?

IN the snap Sabah state polls last year, three independent candidates won in the fight among the big political parties for the 73 state seats. Could an independent win one of the 28 seats in Melaka?null

Kuan Chee Heng, well-known as “Uncle Kentang”, believes it’s a possibility. Kuan, who contested as an independent in the Semenyih by-election in Selangor in February 2019, said the political ground in urban Melaka is fertile for an indie surprise.

“The rakyat is angry enough with politicians that they might not vote for a party candidate but could choose an independent who is a professional,” he said.

“They want to teach political parties a lesson as some politicians have no honour – you vote for them and they jump [parties].”

In the 14th General Election (GE14) in 2018, Pakatan Harapan formed the Melaka state government when it won 15 seats while Barisan Nasional got 13. After the Sheraton Move in February 2020, which triggered the collapse of the Pakatan Federal government, two assemblymen in Melaka, from PKR and DAP, declared they supported the Perikatan Nasional coalition that had taken over at the federal level.

Last month, the Melaka government fell when four assemblymen – including two from Umno, one from Bersatu and the independent formerly from DAP – declared they supported a Pakatan state government.

From Kuan’s visit to Melaka for charity work under his NGO Pertubuhan Amal Kentang Malaysia, the feedback the philanthropist received from urban voters was that they are fed up with politicians.

“They told me that they don’t want to vote. They did not talk specifically about independent candidates, but about a third choice,” he said.

However, Kuan observed that Barisan Nasional – comprising Umno, MCA, MIC and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah – has a good chance of winning the state as Malays were swinging back to Umno. Some of the Chinese, primarily Perikatan supporters, are also slowly coming back to the coalition.

“In GE14, the Opposition voters were hoping that Pakatan would make a change after it formed the Federal government. But they are now frustrated as Pakatan did not take the chance to change,” he said.

Kuan Chee Heng, or fondly known as Uncle Kentang. – Filepic/The Star

Data engineer Teoh Alvin forecasts that a strong independent candidate could win a seat if voters want a fresh candidate who is not attached to any old parties or “the devil they know”.

“As the political battlefield becomes equal with divided support for the Federal government and after going through three administrations under Pakatan, Perikatan Nasional and a mix of Barisan/Perikatan, the voters have experience being under the government of multiple parties so they can choose,” said Teoh, who is with The Elections Lab, an elections consultation, campaign and training company.

In order words, the data engineer argued that the voters have a choice only among the devils (Pakatan, Barisan and Perikatan) they know. “But imagine there is a strong, fresh, well-prepared independent candidate who is better than all the previous choices (the devils they know). Why the need to choose the devil?” he said.

Ilham Centre’s Hisommudin Bakar doesn’t agree, though. He pointed out that it would be difficult, as political trends and electoral behaviour in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia differ.

“The voters in Sabah are more open to evaluating a candidate, whereas in Peninsular Malaysia, the voters go for party identity. They will focus on dominant parties like Umno, PAS and PKR.

“New parties and independents will have difficulty penetrating the thinking and psychology of the voters,” said the executive director of the political research firm.

Several independents have announced that they will be contesting in the Melaka elections.

A former member of the Malaysian navy, Mohan Singh Booda Singh, 60, is eyeing the Gadek state seat.

“I want to spearhead unity and oneness in the local demographic,” said the lawyer.

Education activist Mak Chee Kin, 59, is planning to contest a state seat in the Kota Melaka parliamentary constituency as an independent.

“Locals want change and may cast their votes based on personality rather than going for political parties,” said the Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman.

Mak said from grassroots’ feedback he garnered, people are unhappy with Opposition assemblymen in the state while also having reservations about electing new faces that may be fielded as candidates by other political coalitions.

“Opposition leaders in the state should also bear the blame for the ‘Melaka Move’ [the toppling of the Barisan Nasional/Perikatan-led state government on Oct 4] and not only be pointing their fingers at their rivals. They too wanted power,” he said.

With Pakatan fielding two “pengkhianat (traitors)” from Umno who are blamed for the fall of the Melaka government, some of the Opposition voters might not turn out to vote. Or worse, they might punish Pakatan by voting for an independent.

If that happens, the phenomenon of independents winning seats in the 2020 Sabah polls could be reproduced in Melaka.

By : Philip Golingai – THE STAR

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