RISING cost of living is the main issue in Balakong, a semi-urban constituency with some 60% Chinese voters, most of whom are Hakka.
They are known to be anti-establishment, going by the results of past general elections. But one should take note that they have also voted in MCA candidates.
Sitting at a coffeeshop in Kampung Baru Balakong, 50-year-old Anny Lai said the rising costs worried her.
Cuddling her seven-month old granchild Chor Queen, she said her son-in-law, Nelson Tan, 30, who worked in Kepong, had to fork out RM6 in toll daily to commute to work.
His wife Yap Mei Ying, 25, worked nearer the new village, just to avoid the toll.
“The Pakatan Harapan government should just abolish the toll collection, as pledged in its election manifesto.
“While the 6% GST is history, the incoming SST is making many of us worried,” she added.
Another resident, who wanted to be known only as Liew, said he voted for Pakatan at the recent general election and admitted to being a consistent opposition supporter.
“But the opposition that I knew all my life is now the government. I believe in checks and balances.
“I dislike a strong government, and am now in a dilemma because I am not used to voting against the DAP.
“I am a bit confused and unsure. I may not vote this time because I think it makes no difference,” he lamented.
A hawker was more cynical.
“Anyone in power is the same and I doubt the poor like me will be any different tomorrow.
“GST or SST, it simply means more taxes to be paid. I still need to find money to pay taxes,” said the hawker, who said the DAP still held an advantage over the MCA.
The DAP is worried that the indifference of its supporters could make them abstain from voting.
Even 77-year-old DAP strongman Lim Kit Siang has taken the trouble to campaign in the state constituency despite the party winning the seat with a 35,538-vote majority in GE14.
The late Eddie Ng Tien Chee polled an overwhelming 41,768 votes against Barisan Nasional’s Lim Chin Wah of the MCA, who managed only 5,874 votes. PAS’ Mohamed Ibrahim Ghazali’s got 6,230 votes.
The DAP has tried to convince Balakong voters to “stop Umno from pulling down the Pakatan state government”, although Umno holds only four of the 56 state seats in Selangor against Pakatan’s 49.
Two by-elections are now being held following the demise of Ng and PKR’s Seria Setia assemblyman Prof Dr Shaharuddin Badaruddin.
Umno is the hot target at DAP ceramah in Balakong as the DAP understands the resentment against Umno among the urban voters, with 1MDB and former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak being popular “topics”.
The MCA, on the other hand, is selling voters the notion that they should give it a chance to “speak up at the state assembly”.
Toll collection remains a contentious issue in Balakong as the constituency with 62,000 voters is “surrounded by tolls”.
MCA leader Datuk Chew Kok Woh, who speaks Hakka and is helping in the campaign, said Pakatan had refused to fulfil its pledges.
“I tell the voters that everything that has been promised, especially (abolishing) toll, cannot be fulfilled. Do you still want to give them the votes after they lied to you in your face?
“This by-election won’t bring down the Selangor and federal governments.
“If you vote for the DAP, it makes no difference but if you vote in the MCA candidate, it will be significant.”
DAP candidate Wong Siew Ki attempted to downplay the issue, explaining that Pakatan wanted to “abolish tolls stage by stage”.
She hit out at MCA candidate Tan Chee Teong, for allegedly “stealing” Pakatan’s manifesto.
“He went to inspect the irrigation system and claimed that there will be upgrades to the drainage infrastructure apart from abolishing tolls if he is given the mandate to be Balakong assemblyman,” she was quoted as saying.
Chew retorted that it was odd that residents were still complaining about basic infrastructure issues “as this means the Selangor government has failed miserably despite being in government for two terms”.
What started off as a supposedly one-sided by-election is turning out to be more interesting than expected.
Did you find this article insightful?