PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - It will be six-cornered fight for the Tanjung Piai parliamentary seat come Nov 16, with two independents and two candidates from small parties joining the fray against the two main contestants - Pakatan Harapan (PH)'s Karmaine Sardini and Barisan Nasional (BN)'s Wee Jeck Seng.
Ms Wendy Subramaniam, deputy secretary-general of Gerakan, a former BN ally party, and Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz, president of Berjasa, a tiny Islamic party that was an ally of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), have thrown their hats into the ring. Both parties do not have any seats in Parliament.
The independents are social auditor Faridah Aryani Abdul Ghaffar and tuition centre owner Ng Chuan Lock.
The entry of the four candidates in the Johor by-election could siphon away votes from Mr Karmaine and Datuk Seri Wee.
Tanjung Piai is located about an hour away by car from Iskandar Puteri (formerly Nusajaya) just north of the Tuas Second Link, with the by-election called following the recent death of its MP.
A PH candidate wrested the seat from BN and a PAS contestant by just 524 votes in the three-cornered fight.
With Umno-led BN and PAS now forming an alliance, PH is in for a tough fight in Tanjung Piai even without the four other contestants.
Ms Faridah says her campaign agenda is to provide a voice for the Bottom 40 group, a name given to the bottom 40 per cent of Malaysians by income.
She also said she wanted to provide a voice for Malaysians to address the government and the opposition. She hails from Simpang Renggam, Johor.
Asked if she was confident in the fight in the by-election, she merely said, "I have my own strategy".
Independent candidate Dr Ang Chuan Lock, 49, admitted that he felt intimidated by the other parties' candidates following his nomination.
"I don't see much chance for me to win, and I understand this clearly. As a local, born and bred, in Pontian, my intention is to make a third voice for the people here to tell the government our issues and aspirations," he said when met after nomination closed.
Ang, who has run a chain of tuition centres in Pontian, Batu Pahat, Kluang and Melaka for over 25 years, said his campaign would be "low profile" and would include making use of social media to reach out to the voters.
"Issues such as access to opportunities in tertiary education are a concern among the younger generations here. I hope that my presence will highlight to the policymakers the need to make education more accessible to all based on merit," he said, adding that he was neutral and open to working with any party with similar interests.
The by-election will be a test of the popularity of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the PH chairman. Mr Karmaine is from Tun Mahathir's party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia - one of the parties in the Malaysian ruling coalition.
"Dr Mahathir needs a win to prove that he, his party and Pakatan Harapan are still popular among the voters, " said Universiti Malaya sociopolitics professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi.
James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, agreed.
"It is a mini referendum on PH rule for the past (one year and seven months in power), and all the PH in-fighting, plus on Tun Mahathir's tenure as well."