Qing Ming may affect voter turnout

Will the souls of the dead hold back out-of-town voters, especially the Chinese, in the three by-elections on Tuesday? The fact is that Qing Ming, better known as All Souls Day in Malaysia, will be observed this weekend among the Chinese.

“We are concerned about this. We have a strategy to counter this,” said DAP strategist Liew Chin Tong.

That is the reason why DAP has produced a YouTube-based video clip urging outstation voters to make the trip back home on Tuesday, reminding them about their pivotal role during the March 2008 election.

During this time, people will be busy cleaning up family graves as they pay their respects to their ancestors.

The three constituencies holding by-elections — Bukit Gantang (Perak), Bukit Selambau (Kedah) and Batang Ai (Sarawak) — are likely to see an influx of Chinese visitors this weekend as Qing Ming falls today.

The ‘homage’ at the graves will also take place tomorrow for those who cannot make it on the actual day.
But the question remains whether outstation visitors, who are also registered voters in these constituencies, will stay back until Tuesday to vote.

This means that they will have to stay back for two more days to cast their votes. Will they be politically-conscious enough to stay back and exercise their rights as voters?

This has raised some concern among campaign strategists and workers in these areas.

For example, in Bukit Gantang alone, an estimated 4,000 voters are believed to be residing outside the constituency. About half of them are believed to be Chinese.

Many of these Chinese voters are said to be giving the Bukit Gantang polls a skip.

In the 2008 general election, the overall turnout in Bukit Gantang was about 72 per cent. And the Malay turnout was higher than the non-Malay turnout, at 75.4 per cent against 62.2 per cent.

Despite the possibility that some out-of-town voters might not return to vote, the Election Commission still predicts that the turnout in Bukit Gantang alone could be as high as 75 per cent.

Party loyalists from both sides of the political divide said that a lower turnout could work against either side.

It has been theorised that if the turnout is low among the non-Malays in Bukit Gantang, it would give the Barisan Nasional an advantage.

But if the turnout is lower among the Malay voters, then it could work against the BN in the constituency.

If the non-Malay turnout in Bukit Gantang is low, then the opposition alliance would have an uphill task of maintaining the estimated 54 per cent support it gained last year.

Opposition party workers said that various strategies were being prepared to get more non-Malays to come out and vote.

“We are concerned about this. We have a strategy to counter this,” said DAP strategist Liew Chin Tong.

That is the reason why DAP has produced a YouTube-based video clip urging outstation voters to make the trip back home on Tuesday, reminding them about their pivotal role during the March 2008 election.

Opposition leaders, particularly from DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) tasked with wooing Chinese voters, do not want to see a repeat of the Kuala Terengganu by-election result early this year when many Chinese voters did not return to vote as it was a little over a week before Chinese New Year.

“We are worried about (a repeat of the) Kuala Terengganu scenario. The only thing we can do now is to appeal to these voters to come back or stay back to vote,” said PKR information chief Tian Chua.

He said that in Kuala Terengganu, the lower Chinese voter turnout had worked to BN’s advantage as it managed to garner higher support from Chinese residents in the constituency, although the seat was won by Pas because of the continued solid support base of Pas.

The out-of-town voters there were said to be younger and less establishment-oriented or supportive of BN.

DAP’s Bukit Gantang campaign director Nga Kor Ming said that during the nightly ceramah, the opposition coalition leaders had appealed to voters to stay back for a few more days after Qing Ming to cast their votes.

“We are appealing to their parents or (older) relatives to persuade these voters to stay back at least for two more days in order to exercise their right, said Nga, who is also Pantai Remis state assemblyman and MP for Taiping.

However, Gerakan deputy president and Perak state chairman Datuk Chang Ko Youn challenged the notion that a lower non-Malay voter turnout would work in favour of the BN.

He said the BN was equally concerned about a lower turnout as the situation could be fragile.

As such, Chang said, the BN was also working out a strategy to get more outstation Chinese voters to stay back and vote.

“We are expecting a lower turnout, as in any by-election. That’s why the (BN polls) machinery has been told to get as many outstation people to come back and vote.”

Still, some political strategists believe that the Bukit Gantang constituency, which is located just off the North-South Expressway’s exit at Taiping, will allow for quick access from major cities such as Ipoh, George Town and Kuala Lumpur.

Most of the outstation voters are said to be working in these places and this would make it easier for them to return home and cast their votes.

How politically-motivated they are remains to be seen.

NST

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