Rantau by-election: PH, Umno to slug it out in 'must-win' contest

The four contenders for the Rantau seat are (from left) Umno's Mohamad Hasan, Dr S. Streram from PH's Parti Keadilan Rakyat, retired lecturer Mohd Nor Yassin, and former radio host Malar Rajaram.
The four contenders for the Rantau seat are (from left) Umno's Mohamad Hasan, Dr S. Streram from PH's Parti Keadilan Rakyat, retired lecturer Mohd Nor Yassin, and former radio host Malar Rajaram.PHOTO: BERNAMA

Malaysia's ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance is contesting its seventh by-election, just 10 months after taking office, in a closely watched contest in Negeri Sembilan state.

Yesterday, nomination for the state seat of Rantau saw four candidates filing their names, with eyes on the two main contenders.

Umno's acting president and former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar Mohamad Hasan, 62, is facing off against Dr S. Streram from PH's Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR).

The by-election is being held after the Election Court nullified Datuk Seri Mohamad's victory in the general election last May. He had won a walkover after Dr Streram, 63, an anaesthetist, was denied entry to the nomination centre for not having an Election Commission pass.

The other two candidates are independents - retired lecturer Mohd Nor Yassin, 67, and a former radio host and producer, Ms Malar Rajaram, 51.

Supporters from both the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition and PH turned up in droves, with riot police on standby as the crowd riled opposing sides with shouts across the police barricade.

Polling day is April 13, after a two-week campaign, with early voting on April 9.

 
 

Mr Mohamad, the three-term Rantau state assemblyman, cannot afford to lose this battle as it could end his political career including his leadership of Umno. A loss in a stronghold seat could also throw Umno into a tailspin.

Mr Mohamad took over as the party's acting president in December, after the unpopular president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was forced to go on leave.

On the flip side, PH, after losing two consecutive by-elections, cannot allow the opposition BN coalition to win a third victory in a row, even as it struggles to gain more Malay support.

The four-party PH lost the Cameron Highlands federal ward in Pahang in January, and also the Semenyih state seat in Selangor earlier this month.

This was partly due to Umno and its current ally Parti Islam SeMalaysia having largely sewn up most of the Malay support.

Malay voters form 53 per cent of the 20,926 voters in Rantau - about an hour's drive south from the capital Kuala Lumpur. Chinese make up 17 per cent of voters, Indians 27 per cent, with the remaining 3 per cent from other ethnic groups.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 31, 2019, with the headline 'PH, Umno to slug it out in 'must-win' contest'. Print Edition | Subscribe