KUALA LUMPUR - What should have been a comfortable win for opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the urban seat of Batu has been cast in doubt, after a parade of civil society figures and a Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) veteran threw their hats into the ring for a 10-cornered fight in the constituency in Kuala Lumpur.
Besides contenders from Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional, Parti Pejuang Tanah Air and Parti Warisan, incumbent PKR lawmaker P. Prabakaran will also be up against four independent candidates, including his immediate predecessor Tian Chua, who is also a former PKR vice-president.
In 2018, Mr Prabakaran, then an independent candidate in the elections, was backed by Mr Chua after the latter was disqualified from defending the Batu seat for a third term due to a RM2,000 fine (S$600) in a court case.
The endorsement by Mr Chua and PKR-led PH helped Mr Prabakaran to win the seat, and he subsequently joined PKR.
Mr Chua, 58, was hopeful of making a comeback in the Nov 19 polls on the PKR ticket, but he was dropped from the line-up by party president Anwar Ibrahim who wanted to make way for younger candidates in the name of renewal. This led to Mr Chua contesting independently.
He faces the sack from PKR, with Datuk Seri Anwar describing the circumstances as “unfortunate”.
Having to face so many contenders in its stronghold seat and a PKR veteran going against one of its own has put into doubt PH’s ability to manage its support base of more progressive Malaysians, who appear to have prioritised their independence over the party’s interests.
Analysts, however, say Batu has always been a hotbed for independent-minded politicians.
“Batu has been a dynamic seat ever since an independent candidate won in 2018. That’s why many independent candidates hope for such a miracle for themselves in Batu, when in truth, Prabakaran’s win was due to the circumstance, support of PH and its machinery,” University of Malaya sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi told The Straits Times.
When asked about Mr Chua on Saturday, Mr Prabakaran said: “I feel disappointed at his selfishness.”
“When we talk about national PH taking over the government, he cares more about himself,” added the 26-year-old incumbent MP.
Mr Chua, however, told Mr Prabakaran to “earn his own mandate”, saying the seat won by the latter in 2018 was due to his endorsement.
“Batu voters didn’t know Prabakaran at that time. I asked for their trust and assured them that they could give him a chance to serve the constituency. This time, let the voters evaluate whether they think Praba has done a good job,” he said.
The Batu constituency is estimated to have 112,000 voters, including 43 per cent Malay voters, 30 per cent Chinese and 20 per cent Indians.
Professor James Chin of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania believes that PH will retain the seat, as votes would be split among the independent candidates.
“The more (independent) candidates, the easier for PH to retain the seat. Malaysia uses a first-past-the-post electoral system, so if you split the vote, it’s much easier for the incumbent to win. For example, if Batu has 100,000 voters and there are 10 candidates, the winning nominee in theory needs only 11,000 votes (11 per cent),” he said.