A keenly contested battle for Putrajaya

Leaders from all political parties have been travelling across the nation and meeting electorates before nomination day

by P PREM KUMAR / TMR file pix

THE 14th General Election (GE14) is expected to be a keenly contested election. Many political observers have dubbed the coming election as the mother of all elections. And the early signs seem to suggest that.

Leaders from all political parties have been travelling across the nation and meeting electorates, despite nomination day is only this coming Saturday.

Political pundits, who could have predicted the outcome of the previous 13 elections with little difficulty, see a more “open fight” this time around.

Besides the race, political affiliation and campaign promises, the duel is certainly between the caretaker government of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The sparring between the two leaders who used to be Cabinet colleagues has taken the race to Putrajaya to fever pitch.

Glaringly, based on the social media discussions and postings, Malaysians are more “spirited” to exercise their rights to vote and participate in the democratic process.

Free flow of information brought by the Internet and social media boom is already shaping perceptions, thoughts and beliefs. While loyalists remain a key factor to their respective parties, many voters are seeing beyond the “scale”, “rocket”, “an eye” or “moon”.

Many voters have transcended beyond political symbols. These electorates are more concerned about their constituency and who is best and capable to serve them.

Potential candidates from both sides are under intense scrutiny. A small gesture of having coffee at a “warung” may get attention, but is unlikely to be sufficient to bite the hearts of the voters.

In urban seats, educational qualification, awareness of key issues like governance, economy and rising cost of living are high on the agenda of the voters. How the potential candidates articulate their knowledge on these key issues will likely determine their fate come May 9.

Close to the heart — local issues will dominate the semi-rural and rural seats. Voters want elected representative who are sensitive to issues concerning their livelihood. The candidates’ social media movement, their language, lifestyle and campaign mannerism will likely fall under close scrutiny.

The GE14 is not only about Putrajaya and ruling the country for the next five years. Control of the states is becoming a key mission for the key main parties.

The general feel is that the states controlled by the Opposition would face a stiff onslaught by Barisan Nasional’s (BN) machineries, especially for Selangor. But, the Opposition is likely to retain their grip on these states.

Perlis, Sarawak, Pahang, Melaka and Negri Sembilan are expected to deliver the goods for BN.

Perak, Sabah and Terengganu and Johor are expected to see the fiercest challenge. Despite the rising influence of the younger voters and the “demand” for new blood to be infused into the country’s political dogfight, seasoned politicians are expected to star widely in this election.

A few seasoned politicians’ retirement plans need to be put on a back burner. Others are making a comeback as both sides try to assemble the winning team to lead Putrajaya.

Dr Mahathir, who is likely to contest in Langkawi, the resort island which is close to his heart, will lead among the prominent political veterans.

Former minister and seven-term parliamentarian Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad, who had voiced his intention to quit politics, is expected to defend the Johor Baru constituency.

DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang, Women BN chief Tan Sri Sharizat Abdul Jalil and former Negri Sembilan Chief Minister Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad are all expected to run in this election.

Many see the experience of these seasoned politicians to be critical to sway the mood of the voters.

Young and upcoming politicians are also expected to hog the limelight among the younger voters, especially in Johor and Selangor.

But the biggest suprise of the GE14 was the Election Commission’s (EC) mid-week polling day announcement, the first time the GE is held on a Wednesday since 1959.

However, the anticipation of a lower voters turnout due to difficulties of returning home to vote has almost evaporated. In a rare show of unity, Malaysians are helping fellow citizens to go back to vote, offering everything from paid non-recorded leave and giving travel allowance, to carpooling to cash assistance.

A few consolidated funds had been created to subsidise voters travel expenses, especially for those who are financially hard pressed to make the once in a five-year journey. While the Internet has been criticised as the platform to spread lies and deceits, it has also brought the nation to this new and rare show of solidarity.

As the election date inches closer and names of the candidates are announced this Saturday, one thing is for sure, it will be a battle for every front.