PONTIAN: Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election campaigners are racing against time before campaigning stops at the stroke of midnight.
The six-cornered fight saw the constituency with its 53,000-plus voters somehow overwhelmed, though there is an air of festivity in this otherwise slow-paced community.
Some said the community faced an "information overload" as campaigners kept distributing pamphlets to woo them.
Nonetheless, many voters seem to have made up their mind and are aware of who they will vote for when they go to the polls on Saturday (Nov 16).
"What is development when the people are facing hard times?" asked Khoo Siong Ling, 47.
He said many people were already too tired to listen to all the big plans and the facts and figures on development.
He added that the prolonged low price of palm oil had not only affected smallholders but also others like lorry drivers who transported the oil palm and those selling fertilisers and weedkillers.
Khoo also asked where the "powerful people" (in the government) were before campaign started, saying that the palm oil issue alone had cast a gloom on the economy in this constituency.
On his ideal elected representative, he said the person must be able to show results that made a difference to people's lives, citing two-term Tanjung Piai MP Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng (2008-2018) as an example.
Wee, he said, continued to be reachable and helped the constituents even after his defeat in GE14 last year.
The by-election was triggered by the death of Datuk Dr Md Farid Md Rafik, of Pakatan Harapan, on Sept 21.
The six candidates vying for the parliamentary seat in this by-election are Wee from Barisan Nasional, Karmaine Sardini (Pakatan), Datuk Dr Badrulhisham Abdul Aziz (Berjasa), Wendy Subramaniam (Gerakan) and independents Faridah Aryani Abdul Ghaffar and Dr Ang Chuan Lock.
Of the over 53,000 voters, 57% are Malays, 42% Chinese and 1% Indians in this predominantly agricultural community comprising mostly oil palm smallholders, fishermen, fish breeders, odd-job workers, small-time businessmen, hawkers and petty traders.
Despite it being a crowded race, it is essentially a contest between Wee and Karmaine.
A Barisan campaigner said Pakatan, as a ruling coalition, had an edge.
In Batu Jeram, near here, a voter who introduced herself as Rohani, in her 60s, said Barisan was the popular choice in her village.
Her brother, however, was a Pakatan supporter, she added.
"My brother says the government has money and can help the people," she said, adding that some of their family members agreed with his reasoning.
A resident, who addressed himself as Pakcik, said although only the government had money to help them, some in his village were also worried that Pakatan would not keep its promises.
A DAP grassroots leader in Kukup claimed that the villagers there, especially fishermen, were convinced that Pakatan would give them help after the ceramah, and they would support Karmaine.
However, the lack of job opportunities saw many, particularly the youth, seeking work in Singapore.
Another voter, Tee Tin Choi, while declaring himself to be neutral, said he was upset by the slow economy.
"There is no shopowner who will tell you that business is good these days," said Tee, who operates a vegetarian eatery with his wife.
Asked if he had attended any ceramah, he replied that it would be pointless to attend these events.
"I believe many people have decided who to vote for but keeping it to themselves," he said.
Tee worked in Singapore for many years before setting up his outlet here several years ago.
Loh Chong Soon, 65, who owns and drives a lorry, said he would vote for Wee because he would help the people.
According to him, some of his friends in the transportation business had written to Transport Minister (Anthony Loke) for help and had yet to receive a reply.
Loh said he hoped Wee could bring up their problems in Parliament and find solutions to them.
Another voter, who identified herself as Kak Niah from Kampung Melayu, commended Wee as someone who would keep his promises to the people.
"Wee helps the poor people a lot. He also fulfilled his promises to us despite losing in last year's general election. The villagers all know him," she said.