Predictable in Putrajaya, but hope rises for Opposition

By AFIQ AZIZ & ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

When the borders of the Putrajaya constituency was first drawn in 2003, it drew a lot of criticism for being too small with only 5,078 registered voters.

The figure was half the size of the next smallest constituency and less than 10% of Peninsular Malaysia’s constituency average of 52,000 voters.

Since its inception, critics were suspicious that the constituency was created — being that its inhabitants are almost entirely government officials and their families — to be a parliamentary seat that the government of the day can always count on.

Since 2004, when the constituency made its election debut, Putrajaya has proven to be a fortress for Barisan Nasional (BN). Incumbent Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor has been the undisputed winner in all three elections, beating his opponents by sizeable margins.

However, the percentage of votes for the BN favourite has seen a decline as the constituency grew.

In 2004, 88.3% of the 5,078 registered electorates voted in Tengku Adnan’s favour. In 2008, the percentage declined to 75.6% out of 6,608 voters.

It dropped further in 2013, when Tengku Adnan took on former PAS VP Datuk Husam Musa, to 69.3% out of 15,791 registered voters. This year, the number of eligible voters is 27,306.

What this shows is that a higher number of electorates may not necessarily be good news to BN.

For this general election, not only will there be nearly twice as much voters from the previous poll, it will also be the parliamentary seat’s first three-way battle. Opposition PAS and Pakatan Harapan will be vying for their share of votes, and that would likely be at the expense of BN.

To Swing or Not to Swing

PAS candidate Prof Dr Zainal Abidin Kidam is confident that his party can retain and build on the 4,000 votes captured by Husam in 2013. He said the split votes will not come from the Opposition, but from BN.

“PAS supporters do not change very easily. They fight on principles, not issues. The split is going to come from BN and that will put us in a better position. For voters with issues, their choice is between Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. It has nothing to do with us,” he told reporters after his nomination for the P125 Putrajaya seat.

Meanwhile, Pakatan Harapan candidate Datuk Dr Samsu Adabi Mamat said nearly half of Umno division members in Putrajaya have joined his coalition. “We plan to leverage on that and also target youngsters via social media platforms,” he told The Malaysian Reserve when met recently.

Tengku Adnan, however, seems unworried about these plots. On nomination day, he said: “I’m sure the people of Putrajaya will opt for a local resident like me, not two new-comers who have appeared out of nowhere.”

His undefeated run have clearly given him a morale boost. But whether that can be seen as sheer confidence or mere complacency, is left for the people to decide.

Still Waters Run Deep

Putrajaya may have been built to serve. But the people who work and live here are not spared from the cost-of-living woes. The rise in rental rates, food prices and lack of affordable housing over the last few years are some of the qualms that Putrajaya natives have to endure.

A food delivery business owner, who only wants to be identified as Niva, said rental rates in Putrajaya are considered high for small start—ups.

“Prior to the food delivery business, I opened a restaurant which needed a minimum of RM4,500 per month just on outlet rental fee,” she said.

Her restaurant, which was located at Presint 3, had only lasted three months before she decided to call it off and shifted her business from home.

Zul Afzaal, who operates a small kiosk next to the Prime Minister’s Department at Presint 1, said the Goods and Services Tax (GST) implemented three years ago has had an impact on his business.

“I cannot claim the GST portion, so I have to absorb the tax and increase my price. Some customers have shied away from the stall and are reluctant to buy from us since,” he said, adding that he spends about RM2,000 a month on rental.

Meanwhile, a civil servant from the Statistics Department hopes that the government can provide more affordable housing in the area, saying that small apartments are priced at RM500,000, while the basic asking price for a landed property is above RM1 million.

For 35-year-old Mohd Afiq Iqbal, the houses in Putrajaya are overvalued. “The prices match what is being offered in Kuala Lumpur, which we could not afford,” the government information technology vendor said.

He also said authorities should address the lack of parking spaces in government buildings by developing smart parking systems such as the multi-storey Mechanical Automated Parking System in Jalan Tun Razak.

“This is Putrajaya, the centre of government agencies. But the parking space is limited and we, as workers, would often have to park far from the office, or risk being summoned,” Mohd Afiq said.

Putrajaya has long served as a “fixed deposit” for BN, but the creeping dissatisfaction among its residents mean that it’s a constituency to watch in the upcoming 14th General Election.