TANJUNG PIAI (Johor) - Polling booths have closed in Johor's Tanjung Piai by-election, with the result expected around 10pm later on Saturday (Nov 16).
The six-cornered fight pitched a candidate from the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, his main contender from opposition Barisan Nasional (BN), two contestants from small political parties and two independents.
The 27 polling centres were closed at 5.30pm. At 4pm voter turnout was 70 per cent, said the Election Commission.
Located about an hour away by car from Iskandar Puteri (formerly Nusajaya), just north of Singapore's Tuas Second Link, the Tanjung Piai parliamentary constituency has 52,986 voters, consisting of 57 per cent Malays, 42 per cent Chinese and 1 per cent Indian.
The incumbent MP from PH Md Farik Md Rafik - who died of a heart attack on Sept 21 and thus triggered the by-election - had won the seat in May 2018 with a narrow majority of 524 votes in a three-cornered fight against BN Wee Jeck Seng and a candidate from Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).
This time around, Umno-led BN and PAS have become political allies, thus putting pressure on PH in defending the seat.
This by-election is the ninth since the last general election in May last year.
PH candidate Karmaine Sardini is facing off against BN's Datuk Seri Wee, Wendy Subramaniam from Gerakan party, Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz from small Islamic party Berjasa, and two independent candidates, Dr Ang Chuan Lock and Faridah Aryani Abdul Ghaffar.
PH cannot afford to lose the Tanjung Piai by-election, after it lost three previous by-elections this year in Malay Muslim majority seats in Selangor, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan. PH won the fourth by-election this year in Sandakan, Sabah, in a Chinese-majority ward.
A loss in Tanjung Piai in Johor - a former stronghold state for Umno - is likely to heighten political chatter that the four-party PH coalition has continued to fail to raise support among Malays, amid loud claims by both Umno and PAS that the Mahathir Mohamad government is doing a bad job to protect Malay Muslim rights.
Earlier on Saturday, votes formed long queues to cast their ballots.
Madam Aminah Kasbi, 89, despite being confined to a wheelchair and living an hour away from Tanjung Piai, has never missed the chance of casting her vote in any election.
And it was no different on Saturday (Nov 16) when she was among the first to queue at SK Telok Kerang to vote at the by-election.
Accompanied by her granddaughter Norhidayah Abdullah, Madam Aminah was waiting at the gates of the voting centre at 7.30am, before polling officially started at 8am.
"I was so excited that I couldn't sleep last night... I was up since 4am," she said.
Ms Norhidayah said her grandmother refused to change her voting address despite moving away to live with her grandchildren two years ago, after a bad fall affected her mobility.
Retiree Mohd Taib Ahmad, 67, was another voter who turned up early to cast his vote despite suffering from cataracts.
"My eyesight is not good but I still want to vote. It is my duty to ensure we get a good representative to serve us," he said.
PH's Mr Karmaine arrived at SK Telok Kerang school at 7.45am to cast his vote. He took some time to greet voters before leaving to visit other polling centres.
Mr Wee and his wife, Madam Lim Joo Hon, both cast their votes at SJKC Yu Ming school. The other four candidates did not cast their votes as they are not registered voters in the ward.
"I had a good start in the morning, had my shower and breakfast before going to the polling centre to cast my vote with my wife," The Star Online quoted Mr Wee as saying.
Polling in the ward took on a festive air with flags and banners belonging to PH and BN, as well as other smaller parties, lining the roads leading to the constituency.
PH and BN supporters stood on opposite sides of the roads, and good naturedly waved posters of their candidates and shouted "Number 2" and "Number 4" to passing motorists. The numbers refer to the candidate numbers of Mr Wee and Mr Karmaine respectively.