Will candidates impress on the field?

Urban and rural interests towards a candidate differ, says a political analyst

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By TMR File

ONLY two days before the nomination day on April 28 and the main coalitions — Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan — have begun naming their candidates for the 14th General Election (GE14).

The two sides of the political divide have so far opted for a mix of familiar faces and new blood, both attempting to put together a decisive, winning team.

The ruling coalition is looking to leverage on its 61-year rule by calling on some political heavyweights to make an electoral comeback.

Among the notable figures include Tan Sri Zulhasnan Rafique, a former Cabinet minister and Malaysian ambassador to the US, who will contest in Setiawangsa and Melaka ex-Chief Minister Tan Sri Mohd Ali Rustam who will take on the Hang Tuah Jaya parliamentary seat (previously known as Bukit Katil).

The news have resulted in several incumbents being dropped, leaving many unhappy. Deflated egos are causing an internal tumult within parties as leaders try to appease all sides.

Opposition coalition leader Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he will address the dissatisfaction at his camp by talking to those affected.

“They will realise that this is not an election to simply be appointed as a people’s representative. This is an election that is focused on winning the majority,” he said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak have also issued a reminder to his fact ion and demanded their loyalty no matter how upset some may be if their names were left out.

Only time will tell whether these risks are worth taking. On the voters’ end, however, it is hard to put a finger on what makes a nominee attractive. For freelance public relations practitioner Ong Swee Lyn, 40, experience is an important quality to have in a candidate.

“I’m looking for a candidate that has some track record of delivering what the person has promised. In short, not a newbie but someone who has been in and around the political scene,” she said.

Vickneswaran Kajindran, 39, is also looking for candidates who can deliver and have a good track record at the grassroot level, citing Rembau incumbent Khairy Jamaluddin and DAP candidate for Segambut Hannah Yeoh as noteworthy examples.

He said the current environment calls for leaders who are well aware of the problems on the ground. “Leaders need to be well-equipped with a wide range of knowledge on what impacts the people and what can make a difference in everyday lives, especially those in the lower-income level,” the marketing and advertising consultant said.

Sales manager Zainuddin Taib, 53, prioritises integrity and said candidates must be willing to work hard for the people.

“They cannot be lazy and resort to shortcuts. It is also important for them to be ‘colour blind’ and balanced in their service to the community.” Meanwhile, first-time voter Nur Asyrani Che Ismail, 26, is seeking a well-educated and experienced candidate.

The lecturer based in Perlis said although she welcomes the idea of having younger candidates, it is important that those elected have the capacity to deliver.

“I don’t mind if the candidates are new. I look forward to seeing younger leaders, but not those who are ‘fresh’ in politics. They need to be experienced and capable of doing their job,” she said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said there are no distinct criteria on what makes the “right” candidate.

“It could be a package that the voters are looking for: Winnable, likeable, hold onto strong ethics, etc.

“But then, if the sentiment is strong against a party, all these criteria become irrelevant. Sometimes, emotion controls the voting pattern in some constituencies,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Sivamurugan also noted that urban and rural interests towards a candidate differ. “We saw a fishmonger win against an engineer in a by-election years ago,” he said, adding that education background is not a guaranteed winning attribute.

Political parties and their respective candidates will use everything in their arsenal to woo voters as public opinion becomes ever more complex and ambiguous. What can be assured of though is the 11-day campaigning period, which kicks off this Saturday, will be an exciting fixture to watch.