In Perak, Pakatan sees victory in increased rural Chinese support
The Chinese form the minority in many of these rural seats where PR parties, particularly Islamist PAS, had lost by small margins in Election 2008.
But Perak DAP secretary Nga Kor Ming said that with PAS, the DAP and PKR now campaigning as one under the PR umbrella, the rural Chinese community has grown more comfortable voting for Muslim candidates from PAS or PKR.
“In our latest independent survey, we are quite optimistic. We have strong seats now... between 35 and 38. The best is 40,” he told The Malaysian Insider when met on the campaign trail in Trong, near Taiping, on Friday.
There are 59 seats in the Perak assembly. In Election 2008, the DAP, PKR and PAS collectively won 31 seats to Barisan Nasional’s (BN) 28.
“In these marginal seats, the non-Malay votes are very crucial,” Nga said, making specific reference to Trong, the state seat where PAS had lost to Umno by a marginal 916 votes in Election 2008.
Nga added that like elsewhere across Perak, the loss in Trong was largely due to lagging support from the Chinese for PAS’s Norazli Musa, owing to their fear of the party’s Islamist stance.
Including Trong, PAS also lost in a total of 15 state seats in the 2008 polls, 10 of which were by slim majorities of below 1,000 votes while five seats were by majorities below 500 votes.
With this in mind, Nga said Chinese support from rural Perak could help bump up support from the community by 10 per cent and shift the balance in favour of PR this May 5.
“In Perak, we got over 70 per cent or so from the Chinese votes previously. If we can push this to 80 per cent, we can not only form the government but we can form a stable one to avoid crossovers,” he said.
The Perak PR government fell in Perak in 2009 after a short 11-month rule following the defections of three of its assemblymen.
In the 2008 election, the three parties won Perak largely due to enthusiastic support from the Chinese, particularly those from urban-centric seats in Kinta Valley.
The DAP had won all the 18 Chinese-majority seats it contested and lost only one of the seven parliamentary seats it contested — Kampar.
But this time, Perak DAP’s biggest star Lim Kit Siang has moved on from his seat in Ipoh Timor to contest in Johor’s Gelang Patah as a part of the party’s strategy to boost its campaign in the southern state.
There were fears that Lim’s departure from Ipoh Timor would anger his supporters who voted him in for two general elections but, according to local DAP leaders, this has not been the case so far.
Despite Lim’s absence, they said, the presence of the DAP veteran is still felt across the Kinta Valley and Chinese support for PR here has continued to remain strong.
“They understand his reasons for going to Johor. And in fact, they are more concerned than upset... some would come to me to express worry that Kit Siang might lose in Gelang Patah,” said Thomas Su, who is standing in for Lim in the Ipoh Timor contest.
“Their political maturity here is very high. And response has just been fantastic, even though we no longer have big personalities here contesting.”
The incumbent Pasir Pinji assemblyman added that in many places, it is not just handshakes and cheers that greet DAP candidates on their walkabouts, but standing ovations and applause.
“Fantastic response. Our ceramahs have been great as well,” Su told The Malaysian Insider today.
On Friday, an ad hoc “teh tarik” session with Lim Guan Eng, the son of Kit Siang, drew a massive mob to the Kinta Riverfront Hotel & Suites here.
The event, which was meant to be a tea session, turned out to be an afternoon ceramah headlined by key Perak DAP speakers, including Su, Ipoh Barat incumbent M. Kulasegaran, and former Perak Speaker V. Sivakumar, apart from Guan Eng.
The room was packed to the rafters with eager onlookers, most among them Chinese, while those who arrived a few minutes too late found themselves squeezed into a thick queue that snaked out from the room’s entrance.
Organisers had only anticipated a maximum 400-strong crowd but at least 600 tried to crowd into the Pusing function room in the hotel, which only has a seating capacity of 400.
One nervous-looking hotel event co-ordinator told The Malaysian Insider that she had never seen such a mob for any function in the hotel before.
“They kept telling us that at most, there would be 400 people. But look at this,” she said.
After much jostling, the chairs in the Pusing room had to be removed from the hall to accommodate more of the impatient crowd.
Even from outside the doorway, some tried to snap photographs of the leaders as they took their turns at the microphone. Others were heard complaining about missing out on the speeches.
Inside the hotel lift to the lobby, strangers exchanged information on where the next ceramahs would be, even advising each other on the best time to arrive to avoid the crowds.
When met outside the function room, Canning incumbent Wong Kah Who told The Malaysian Insider that the event was proof of sound support from the Chinese voters in Ipoh for PR.
“Even we did not anticipate this kind of crowd. It is very encouraging,” he said.
Like Su, Wong said the lack of big names in PR’s fight for Perak has not affected support for the opposition, especially from the Chinese voters.
“No, our supporters have not left us. They have been very, very responsive so far,” he said.