Malaysia GE2022 campaigning kicks off: 6 key battles to watch

Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan supporters waving flags in Gombak, Selangor on Nomination Day. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Intense contests are expected as Malaysia heads to the polls on Nov 19. The Sunday Times looks at six hot seats with prominent candidates.

1. Tambun, Perak

Pakatan Harapan president Anwar Ibrahim (right) meeting incumbent Ahmad Faizal Azumu of Perikatan Nasional on Nomination Day in Tambun, Perak, on Nov 5, 2022. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Anwar Ibrahim, 75, Pakatan Harapan

Ahmad Faizal Azumu, 52, Perikatan Nasional

Number of voters: 160,558

Voter breakdown: Malay (66.1%), Chinese (20.5%), Indian (12.1%), Others (1.3%)

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition has made clear its intention to make Perak its front-line state in the upcoming election by fielding Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim in Tambun, a seat that was won by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in 2018.

Datuk Seri Anwar’s opponents have derided his “parachuting” from his current Port Dickson seat.

He is up against Bersatu deputy president Faizal Azumu, who played up his Tambun nativeness with a video lesson on social media to other candidates “migrating” to his home town in the local dialect.

Mr Faizal, who is also caretaker Youth and Sports Minister, was also elected into the state assembly in 2018 when Bersatu was part of PH and made Perak’s chief minister. But his party’s defection from the coalition led to the collapse of the PH federal and state government, and Mr Anwar has been bent on contesting against the “traitor” to send a message of zero-tolerance towards “treachery”.

Should Mr Anwar succeed in overcoming home support for Mr Faizal, he may be the first Perak MP to become Malaysia’s premier.

Umno’s Tambun division head Aminuddin Hanafiah is the other main contender, as Barisan Nasional (BN) members declared they would make Mr Anwar meet his Waterloo in Tambun. The other candidate is Gerakan Tanah Air’s (GTA) Abdul Rahim Tahir.

2. Bagan Datuk, Perak

Barisan Nasional chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (left) has held Bagan Datuk for six consecutive terms, but will face a stiff challenge in former deputy minister Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin. PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR, SHAMSUL ISKANDAR MOHD AKIN/FACEBOOK

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, 69, Barisan Nasional

Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin, 48, Pakatan Harapan

Number of voters: 58,183

Voter breakdown: Malay (57.4%), Chinese (20.7%), Indian (21.4%), Others (0.5%)

Umno president and BN chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will possibly face his sternest test yet in his electoral stronghold of Bagan Datuk, as he is pitted against three challengers in an unprecedented four-corner fight.

Zahid has held Bagan Datuk for six consecutive terms and remains a favourite to retain it for a seventh time. However, he will face former deputy minister Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin from PKR, which leads PH. Mr Shamsul is a two-term MP from Melaka, and he had twice defeated Umno Melaka stalwart Ali Rustam, earning him the reputation of a giant-killer.

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Mr Tawfik Ismail, the son of former deputy prime minister Ismail Abdul Rahman, is running as an independent, while Bersatu supreme council member Muhammad Faiz Na’aman is contesting under the Perikatan Nasional (PN) banner.

Zahid’s vote share in this semi-rural constituency has been gradually decreasing in the past two elections. He won only 51 per cent of the votes in 2018, when he was deputy prime minister.

He is heading to the polls this time with dozens of corruption charges hanging over him. He has also been criticised for spearheading a push for Malaysia to hold elections amid a looming monsoon season that could cause flooding.

3. Pagoh, Johor

Former Muar MP Razali Ibrahim (right) has conceded that challenging former Malaysia PM Muhyiddin Yassin in Pagoh may be difficult. PHOTOS: JASON QUAH, RAZALI IBRAHIM/FACEBOOK

Muhyiddin Yassin, 75, Perikatan Nasional

Razali Ibrahim, 52, Barisan Nasional

Number of voters: 69,939

Voter breakdown: Malay (67%), Chinese (29.2%), Indian (3.4%), Others (0.3%)

Former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s reputation has taken a knock since he initiated Bersatu’s exodus from the PH government in 2020, triggering its collapse. But rivals for his Pagoh parliamentary seat, which he first won in 1978, will still face a tough time dislodging him.

Former Muar MP Razali Ibrahim has conceded that challenging Pagoh’s “big boss” may be difficult. “All the people tell me that Pagoh is one of the hardest places (to contest),” Datuk Seri Razali, from Umno-led BN, told local media earlier this month. “I don’t deny it, but in an election anything is possible.”

Tan Sri Muhyiddin, who helms the PN coalition, has long brought economic development to his ward. Referring to the Pagoh university town he got built, Dr Francis Hutchinson, coordinator for the Malaysia studies programme at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, told The Sunday Times: “It has been fantastic for bringing jobs for people in the area that work in supporting services for education.”

Still, Mr Muhyiddin is also now infamous for being Malaysia’s shortest-serving prime minister, holding office for only 17 months before stepping down in August 2021. And, while he comfortably won the Pagoh seat in 2018 with 55 per cent of total votes, this was lower than the 66 per cent he garnered in 2013.

Meanwhile, PH candidate Iskandar Shah Abdul Rahman will make it a three-way fight in Pagoh that could spoil Mr Muhyiddin’s chances of winning a bigger majority.

4. Gombak, Selangor

Three-time incumbent Gombak MP Azmin Ali (second right) will be defending his seat against Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari (second left). ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Azmin Ali, 58, Perikatan Nasional

Amirudin Shari, 42, Pakatan Harapan

Number of voters: 206,744

Voter breakdown: Malay (77.7%), Chinese (10.8%), Indian (10.4%), Others (1.1%)

Three-time incumbent Gombak MP Azmin Ali, who is the caretaker International Trade Minister, will be defending his seat against Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari, who is contesting a federal seat for the first time.

Also in the fray are BN’s Megat Zulkarnain Omardin of Barisan Nasional, GTA’s Aziz Jamaludin Tahir and independent candidate Zulkifli Ahmad.

Datuk Seri Amirudin was seen as Datuk Seri Azmin’s protege during their days in PKR, which leads the PH coalition.

Their relationship deteriorated when Mr Azmin led a faction of PKR leaders to form a new government with Bersatu and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) in 2020. This led to the collapse of the PH government.

Political pundits believe that it is a battle that neither man can afford to lose, especially for Mr Azmin, as a defeat would be the end of his legacy in the state.

“This clash will determine Azmin’s political survival and future,” said University of Malaya sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi.

A defeat for Mr Amirudin would mean that he has to continue to fight off the perception that he is still a proxy to his former mentor.

The Gombak seat was won by Mr Azmin in 2008, before he became PKR’s deputy president and later Selangor Menteri Besar in 2014. After PH’s victory in the 2018 General Election, he made way for Mr Amirudin after being appointed the Economic Affairs Minister.

5. Kuala Selangor, Selangor

Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz (right) will be making his electoral debut against Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad in the opposition stronghold of Selangor. PHOTOS: THE STAR, KUA CHEE SIONG

Tengku Zafrul Aziz, 49, Barisan Nasional

Dzulkefly Ahmad, 66, Pakatan Harapan

Number of voters: 102,951

Voter breakdown: Malay (68.9%), Chinese (11.9%), Indian (18.9%), Others (0.3%)

Umno’s poster boy for the party’s rejuvenation, Tengku Zafrul Aziz, will take on incumbent Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) MP, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, in the race for this seat.

Datuk Seri Zafrul, who was appointed finance minister in 2018, is making his electoral debut in the opposition stronghold of Selangor, which Umno-led BN is set on regaining from PH.

Former health minister Dzulkefly first won the parliamentary seat in 2013. He reclaimed it from Umno’s Irmohizam Ibrahim in the 2018 election, where he took 50 per cent of the votes in a three-way fight.

BowerAsiaGroup senior analyst Arinah Najwa said the election would be a litmus test of Mr Zafrul’s support on the ground. “Dr Dzulkefly has had a long-time presence there, so it can prove to be a challenge for Zafrul to sway votes,” she noted.

The Malay vote is set to be split in this constituency, where Malays make up more than 65 per cent of the electorate.

GTA’s Mohd Shaid Rosli and Mr Mohd Noor Sahar from PAS are also contesting in this ward, but they have an outside chance of clinching the seat, Ms Arinah said.

6. Sungai Buloh, Selangor

Umno stalwart and popular Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (left) is making a bid for the first time in an opposition stronghold seat against PKR’s Ramanan Ramakrishnan. PHOTOS: ST FILE, RAMANAN RAMAKRISHNAN DR/FACEBOOK

Khairy Jamaluddin, 46, Barisan Nasional

Ramanan Ramakrishnan, 41, Pakatan Harapan

Number of voters: 158,090

Voter breakdown: Malay (68.6%), Chinese (20.6%), Indian (9.9%), Others (0.9%)

The Sungai Buloh electorate will see a seven-cornered fight where Umno stalwart and popular Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin is making a bid for the first time in an opposition stronghold seat. It was a blow for the three-term Rembau MP to be fielded away from an Umno safe seat.

Lesser-known Ramanan Ramakrishnan of PKR, a former Malaysian Indian Congress treasurer-general, is a surprise candidate as well, replacing PKR’s incumbent MP R. Sivarasa. Mr Sivarasa, the former deputy minister of rural development and a well-known human rights lawyer, helmed the seat for three terms, but is now being replaced due to health issues.

Despite Sungai Buloh being tough for non-PKR candidates, Mr Halmie Azrie Abdul Halim, a research executive of the democracy and governance unit at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, sees Mr Khairy as having the upper hand. “He is likely to win the... seat due to his popularity that appeals to the urban-centric voter base, a weaker set of opponents and probable low voter turnout that favours Umno’s grassroot machinery.”

GTA’s Mohd Akmal Mohd Yusoff, PN’s Mohd Razali Md Hamin, Parti Rakyat Malaysia’s Jufriz Faizal as well as independent candidates Syed Abdul Razak Syed Long Alsagoff and Norhaslinda Basri are also contesting here.  

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