Commentary Politics

Calm in Rantau despite a lot at stake in this “mother of all by-elections’

Dr Streram meeting his supporters at Pakatan Harapan's operation center in Bandar Ekar, Rantau.

Dr Streram meeting his supporters at Pakatan Harapan's operation center in Bandar Ekar, Rantau.

Ahirul Ahirudin
Written by Ahirul Ahirudin

April 5, 2019 

AT first glance, the run-up to the coming by-election in Rantau seems boring, at least when it comes to the campaigning, which so far lacks drama. But apparently, there is a lot at stake for the candidates this time round.

The pressure is especially apparent for Pakatan Harapan (PH), particularly PKR since the opposition Barisan Nasional (BN) has been on a winning streak with back-to-back by-election wins in Cameron Highlands and Semenyih.

DAP lost in Cameron Highlands, Pribumi lost in Semenyih and now PKR is vying for the seat in Rantau, but they are up against a formidable opponent in the form of former Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan.  

Mohamad led the state for 14 years and was never remotely threatened in his constituency for three full terms.

In last year’s general election, he won unopposed against his sole challenger, Dr Streram Sinnasamy who had failed to file his nomination papers after being denied entry into Dewan Sri Rembau.

(Dr Streram then sought for a by-election to be held for the Rantau seat, declaring that its incumbent had not won the seat legitimately. Mohamad filed an appeal.)

Observation and interactions with the locals in Rantau indicate quite clearly that most of them like him as their wakil rakyat due to his sincerity and hard work.

Nonetheless, PKR does not seem far behind, pulling out all stops to make sure their candidate stands chance to win the by-election, which is not surprising since many were of the opinion that prime minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s fate hangs in balance of this by-election.

This time around, the PKR president is going all out on the campaign trail in what many view as his desperation for the party’s candidate to win in Rantau.

This act of desperation has not escaped many, including Umno’s Khairy Jamaluddin whose Rembau parliamentary constituency includes Rantau and a prominent political analyst .

In his many ceramah over the past few days, Anwar went as far as telling the voters not to shun Dr Streram just because of his race. A little odd to be harping on this as the opposition has not touched on the race of the PKR candidate.

Dr Streram seems to have an advantage in terms of offering future development to the constituency since he is a candidate of the ruling coalition and this was made to good use by Anwar as he repeatedly promised the people of Rantau a better future should PH wins.

While he did say that those were not conditional promises, Anwar, however, implied that Rantau will benefit more from the development he plans to bring to his nearby Port Dickson constituency should Dr Streram win.

Despite scepticisms over his candidacy even among local PH supporters, Dr Streram himself appeared supremely confident about winning the by-election to the point of claiming that his contributions in Rantau were more important than anything that Mohamad had done in the past.

“My current efforts are even better then Tok Mat’s. Even the health minister has agreed to bring in two health clinics worth RM80 million, one in Sendayan and one in Rantau. That is better then Tok Mat’s,” said Streram to journalists two days ago. 

Meanwhile, Mohamad says that he will not be taking it easy and that he would be campaigning to reach out to as many voters as possible.

“It’s not about the Rantau seat itself. Even if I win, it will not change the Federal government. It (the significance of the contest) is because I’m contesting here,” said Mohamad, who is facing Dr Streram along with two independent candidates, R. Malarvizhi and Mohd Nor Yassin.

The Umno deputy president who is currently carrying out the tasks of party president agreed that Rantau is the ‘mother of all by-elections’ with PH intending to stop the BN’s winning streak and more importantly knocking him out politically due to his leading role in the current resurgent of the main opposition coalition.

The Rantau by-election has been necessitated by the Federal Court’s dismissal of an appeal filed by Mohamad to set aside the Nov 16 Seremban Election Court decision declaring his unopposed win in the 14th general election (GE14) null and void.

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Ahirul Ahirudin

Ahirul Ahirudin