TELUK INTAN, May 24 ― Fear of ceding even a little of its Malay support to DAP’s Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud has pushed Umno to work feverishly on convincing the community ― often deemed a secure Barisan Nasional (BN) vote bank - that the young Malay woman’s physical appeal is not what Teluk Intan needs.
The Chinese-majority federal seat has just under 22,000 Malay voters, or 38 per cent of the electorate, but losing Malay votes to the Chinese-dominated DAP could prove an embarrassing defeat for the ruling party that has now poured much of its resources into the historic Perak township.
Changkat Jong assemblyman Datuk Mohd Azhar Jamaluddin, who also heads the Teluk Intan Umno division, said the party machinery has been working till 3am for the past few days in the Malay-majority Changkat Jong state seat.
“I don’t deny that the youth or the Malays may be influenced by the DAP candidate,” Azhar told The Malay Mail Online in an interview at his service centre here.
At 38 per cent, the Malays of Teluk Intan are considered a sizeable vote bank behind the Chinese, who form 42 per cent of the 60,349-strong electorate. The Indians make up 19 per cent.
During the May 5 general election last year, the DAP’s Seah Leong Peng snapped up just 25 per cent of the Malay votes, despite scoring an overall win over BN’s Datuk Mah Siew Keong with an over 7,000 vote majority.
Changkat Jong is one such place. The largely rural seat, which is one of the two state seats in the semi-urban Teluk Intan constituency, comprises 62 per cent Malay voters.
The other state seat is Pasir Bedamar, which is largely urban and comprises 69 per cent Chinese voters. DAP’s Terence Naidu V. Raja is the assemblyman here.
Some Malay-majority villages like Kampung Baru Ayer Hitam ― which is located some 25km from town, past stretches of oil palm plantations ― are Umno strongholds.
There, many voters met by The Malay Mail Online said they were not swayed by Dyana Sofya’s ethnicity, her youth or good looks.
They said Mah, who is again BN’s candidate for Teluk Intan, is the better choice due to the 53-year-old’s previous experience as Teluk Intan MP for two terms.
In comparison, they said Dyana Sofya, a 26-year-old law graduate, is inexperienced. They pointed out that she hails from Ipoh, not Teluk Intan, unlike Mah.
“Of course we should give young people opportunities, but she still doesn’t have experience,” housewife Nor Farahida Kamaruddin, 22, told The Malay Mail Online at Kampung Baru Ayer Hitam.
But some in other Malay-majority villages like Kampung Bahagia ― where about 36 per cent of voters supported Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in Election 2013, according to research firm Politweet ― spoke favourably of Dyana Sofya.
“She’s a young person, so she’ll have fresh ideas. Besides, she won’t die so soon. Mah Siew Keong is already quite old,” a 43-year-old Malay businessman, who only wanted to be known as Mr Lan, told The Malay Mail Online.
The sway in sentiment is enough to worry BN, and Umno in particular, as the party tasked to ensure the Malay votes stay with the ruling pact.
Roselina Osman, who is part of Wanita Umno’s campaign team in Kampung Bahagia, said Wanita Umno will conduct house visits and hold small group sessions with about 30 people, while the Umno men would organise ceramahs till midnight for bigger crowds of about 100 at night.
“We’re afraid that young Malays may be influenced by Dyana, who’s considered one of them. Plus, she’s pretty too,” Roselina told The Malay Mail Online at Umno’s operations room at Kampung Bahagia, a small shack at the side of the road.
She noted that in the May 5 general election last year, BN had lost the youth polling stream at the Kampung Bahagia polling district.
Campaigning to wrest the Malay votes for the DAP is the party’s PR partner PAS. Speaking to The Malay Mail Online in Changkat Jong, PAS campaign deputy director (operations) Salman Saleh said there has been some positive feedback and excitement shown by the Malay voters towards Dyana Sofya.
“Yesterday, I followed the candidate to a housing area. Those at the pasar malam were excited to see her. They took selfies with her,” Salman told The Malay Mail Online in an interview at PAS’ operation centre in Kampung Padang Tembak.
“The Malays seem to like her, except for the hardcore Umno supporters. Of course we don’t play up her ethnicity, but we cannot deny that it’s an extra factor in our favour,” he added.
Salman said Umno’s personal attacks against Dyana Sofya showed that the Malay ruling party feel pressured by her candidacy.
“They talk about her not wearing a headscarf, her speeches, the hudud issue, calling her a traitor, and those fake pictures of her on the internet. Umno is trying to pull back the Malay votes that are leaving them,” he said.
The PAS man admitted that tackling the hudud issue was difficult for the Islamist party, but said they focused on how Gerakan was more antagonistic than the DAP in the Islamic penal code controversy.
“Gerakan had threatened legal action to stop PAS from tabling the hudud bills,” Salman said.
Next Saturday, Dyana and Mah will engage in a straight fight for the Teluk Intan federal seat, which was abruptly vacated after the unexpected demise of DAP’s Seah on May 1.
Mah had won the Teluk Intan seat in 1999 and 2004, but lost it to DAP’s M. Manogaran and Seah in 2008 and 2013 by 1,470 votes and 7,313 votes respectively.-Malay Mail Online