With only a few days before polling, the Slim by-election remains a straight fight between two favourite candidates – Barisan Nasional’s Mohd Zaidi Aziz and independent Amir Khusyairi Mohamad Tanusi.
Amir Kusyairi is backed by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s pro-tem political setup Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang).
A third candidate who is also an independent, S. Santharasekaran, continued to trail the two as he has yet to make a lasting impression among voters since the campaigning period kicked off on Aug 15.
The 44-year-old former teacher had also yet to complete his campaign rounds in the constituency.
Political studies lecturer, Dr Achmad Dzariean Mohd Nadzri said Mohd Zaidi and Amir Khusyairi were currently intensifying their campaign rounds and employed similar strategies.
“Even though the Slim by-election is registered as a three-cornered fight, the main battle for votes centred between BN and the independent candidate who is backed by Pejuang.
“But it seems BN has a higher chance in winning the seat, following Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s inclusion in the political pact Muafakat Nasional. This would boost the strength of BN’s campaign machinery.”
Achmad Dzariean said as a local candidate, Mohd Zaidi boasted an advantage over his competitors.
“Ahmad Khusyairi is from Teluk Intan and a former Bersatu member. He does not have grassroots support in the constituency.
“Mohd Zaidi has been active politically. He is the acting Tanjung Malim Umno division chief and was close to the then assemblyman, the late Datuk Mohd Khusairi Abdul Talib.”
Aided by Pas, BN’s machinery also had a stronger presence among the rural voters especially in Felda Besout and Felda Trolak here.
Amir Khusyairi, on the other hand, relied heavily on efforts by Dr Mahathir, Pejuang supporters and close friends to remain afloat in the race.
Achmad Dzariean said Dr Mahathir would be Amir Khusyairi’s trump card in scoring votes, as the elder politician remained influential among certain segments of Malay electorates.
Within the same vein, Achmad Dzariean said the by-election too would serve as a barometer to measure Dr Mahathir’s political clout.
“Is Dr Mahathir still popular, influential and accepted by the people?”
In the 14th General Election, Mohd Khusairi defended the state seat with a majority of 2,183 votes by defeating Bersatu’s Mohd Amran Ibrahim, who contested under PKR ticket and Muhammad Zulfadhli Zainal of Pas. NST