Political campaigns for Tenang state seat by-election cease at midnight today. Last ditch effort by contesting parties entered more personal yesterday when speakers, especially from the Opposition lost a little bit of their balance by launching massive character assassination on PM Najib, its Cabinet and policies.
Calls for both sides to have a 'clean' one-week campaign went unheeded as the same speakers for previous 'delicate by-elections' such as Galas, Bukit Gantang, Kuala Terengganu and Bukit Selambau were brought in.
Since Johor had not seen any by-elections since 1989, the people in Tenang were never exposed to massive character assassinations and carpet bombings. Tension was high at several places amid tight security by the police, Rela and the FRU. However, no untoward incident took place except for some verbal abuse at an Umno ceramah near Labis last night.
The cyber-war by bloggers, notably those of pro-govt is also heating up the solemn look of Labis when some of them published a series of harsh attacks on Anwar Ibrahim, Kit Siang, Guang Eng, Karpal, Nik Aziz and their candidate.
With the rakyat to decide on whether Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat should take control of Tenang tomorrow, attention is centered at the 5,766 Chinese voters, who represent 39.08 per cent of the total 14.753 registered voters.
"It looks like Chinese all for DAP (a component in PR). In the last national poll, they were not very supportive of BN. As the nation gets older, the Malaysian Chinese are becoming anti-government," said a senior government official whom I met in Segamat.
"Its not like the Perikatan days when they fully supported the government," he added.
Even the 7,014 registered Malay voters (47.54 per cent) will not going to be 'all for BN'. Pas, another component of PR is much alive in Labis. Its candidate Normala Sudirman, 38 is also a well-known and respected teacher in the constituency.
Azahar Ibrahim, 39 or BN (Umno) is undoubtedly the favorite to win the by-election, thus making Normala the underdog. Since Umno has a strong base in Labis and Tenang, confidence is high at the BN camp that retaining the seat is 'kacang'.
However, Deputy PM Muhyiddin challenge for BN to secure about 5,000 majority votes (2,492 in the last general election) is quite impossible to attain. It all depends on whether the Chinese would vote for the ruling party.
The 1,780 Indian voters (12.07 per cent) are almost all for BN as had been the case in previous election but they too could have a change of mind as their initial request for an Indian candidate for Galas was turned down by the leadership.
As at today, reports and feedback from various groups predicted that BN would win by a majority of 2,800 votes, 2,200 less than Muhyiddin's target and only about 300 better than 2008 national poll. However, some conservative estimates put the majority to notch 3,600 if BN party workers multiply effort on the eve of polling to woo supporters.
Its a daunting task for BN. A win is secured but the majority could take a sharp decline should voters turn blase with bias media reporting and nauseating postings by pro-BN bloggers. As voters in Tenang are not used to such a 'dirty' game, we can expect some sympathy votes to go to Normala.
And again, the Chinese voters hold the key to BN's victory. As to whether most of them will opt for BN or PR depends much on how they absorb themselves to national development and the achievement of Najib's government thus far.
For my personal observation, only 15 per cent of the Chinese votes will go for BN. And by taking into account other factors such as sympathy votes, the PR strength, candidates' personality, blogs and on-the-fence voters, BN can only retain Tenang seat. Majority votes will not move much.