TANJUNG PIAI: It was a typical Sunday morning in Pekan Nenas here as locals thronged the morning market and breakfasted in coffeeshops.
Coffeeshop talk inevitably turned to politics as Tanjung Piai by-election candidates and supporters joined the morning crowd.
Six hopefuls are contesting but only three – Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng from Barisan Nasional, Karmaine Sardini (Pakatan Harapan) and Wendy Subramaniam (Gerakan) – were seen up and about on the first day of campaigning.
The other candidates are Berjasa's Badrulhisham Abd Aziz, 56, and independent candidates Dr Ang Chuan Lock, 49, and Faridah Aryani Abd Ghafar, 43.
Karmaine, 66, may be a new face to the local Chinese community, and campaigners were seen distributing DAP's Chinese-language newsletters to the crowd.
The front page of the newsletter features two prominent photos, one of DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and another showing Chinese president Xi Jinping and the Prime Minister shaking hands.
Equally eye-catching was a large photo of Subang Jaya assemblyman Michelle Ng Mei Sze on the back page.
This strategy is being used to woo the 42% Chinese electorate of the 53,528 voters in Tanjung Piai, with Malays making up 57% and Indians, 1%.
Karmaine, an architect, was all smiles as he went into coffeeshops greeting patrons and hawkers.
Along the main road, a group of Barisan campaigners stationed themselves next to a large pineapple sculpture and waved to passing motorists, receiving an occasional honk.
"They are for Jeck Seng," said a coffeeshop owner in Chinese as she observed the young Malay campaigners from afar.
She went on to speak about the 55-year-old Wee, a two-term Tanjung Piai MP and one-term Pekan Nenas assemblyman.
"He helped to save my elder sister," said the woman, who is in her 60s.
She recalled how her sister, who was in her 70s, suffered a heart attack one night.
"We rushed her to Pontian Hospital but was told she needed to go to the hospital in Johor Baru as they were out of beds.
"We called Jeck Seng. Three of his assistants rushed over and sent my sister to the Johor Baru Hospital."
In Taman Utama, a residential area adjacent to Pekan Nenas, Gerakan's Wendy told the media how her two young children, aged one and five, were asking for her.
She said she had been on her feet 18 hours a day since nomination day on Saturday, returning to her home in Kulai to catch a few hours' sleep.
Wendy was at the Pekan Nenas morning market and later visited two nearby churches before making house-to-house calls.
By noon, she was seen at coffeeshops in Taman Utama, greeting the lunch crowd.
The presence of the 38-year-old lawyer, who studied in SJKC Foon Yew 1 and Foon Yew High School and is able to converse in Mandarin, made heads turn.
However, talk is that the contest is mainly between Karmaine and Wee, with each having a 50-50 chance of winning.
Polling day is on Nov 16.
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