IF the numbers are anything to go by, the attendance at two dinners in Kajang on Friday night signals a close fight in the Kajang state by-election today.
The Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional dinners, which were held in makeshift tents a few kilometres apart, can be seen as shows of strength. A predominantly Chinese crowd, the Pakatan and Barisan dinners reported some 4,000 and 3,000 guests, respectively.
The fight for the 15,000 Chinese votes in the constituency was intense during campaigning because their support can tilt the balance and thus the outcome of the by-election.
MCA, which lost the seat to PKR in the general election last year, is hoping to get more Chinese support this time around. PKR won with a 6,824 vote majority.
MCA’s hope is to increase the Chinese support to 30%, against the 18% in the last election.
Party deputy president Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong yesterday described their dinner turnout as “extraordinary” and a big pleasant surprise.
He said many MCA leaders had to stand throughout the dinner after giving up their seats.
The mood at the dinner was upbeat. Dining under make-shift tents, the guests were lucky it did not rain. Bukit Angkat, where the Barisan dinner was held, is notorious for floods. Flash floods happened there just two days ago.
To the Chinese, accepting a humble dinner invitation is likened to a show of goodwill, and a political observer said this should not be brushed aside, especially for MCA. In the 2008 and 2013 general elections, it was common for Chinese voters to boycott MCA dinners.
Dr Wee believes the people of Kajang have finally felt Barisan’s sincerity in wanting to serve them.
The Kajang state by-election is a fight between MCA vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun and PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
Over at the Pakatan dinner, a Chinese song about a hero was blasted to greet the arrival of their leaders, who included DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Dr Wan Azizah.
It was quite obvious that Pakatan leaders, especially Kit Siang, were trying very hard to create the emotional charge to rally the Chinese support.
Kit Siang told his audience that they must be like the legendary Justice Bao who stood for righteousness and had zero tolerance for injustice and corruption.
Kit Siang said their job was to fight for Anwar and DAP national chairman Karpal Singh. Both were convicted in court recently, and they risk losing their parliamentary seats if they lose their appeal against their conviction.
Kit Siang said that by securing a victory for Pakatan, the voters were also fighting to save the country’s judicial system.
Never mind that Kajang is a state seat, he said Dr Wan Azizah has the substance to become prime minister.
He impressed upon the voters that they were not just voting in an assemblyman.
While the battle cry of “March to Putrajaya” at the 13th general election had appealed to the voters’ imagination, the “Kajang to Putrajaya” call this time around is confusing for the voters.
At the last elections, the Pakatan, in its call for “ubah” (change), had touted Anwar to be the next prime minister. But in Kajang, Dr Wan Azizah will not even make a big difference in Selangor’s Pakatan-dominated state assembly if she wins the race.
The Chinese are generally a pragmatic lot and the fact that the outcome of today’s polls would have no direct impact on the state and federal governments may likely have an influence on their decision at the ballot boxes.
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Results of polls to be known by 9pm