NOV 12 — The first week of campaigning for the 15th general election (GE15) has come to an end but unlike the previous elections, there seems to be a noticeable lackluster in Barisan Nasional's (BN) campaign this time around.
So far, from BN, only its vice president and 'poster boy' Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has been seen more in other parliamentary constituencies, propping up his party and its candidates in the run-up to polling day on November 19.
Malay Mail's observation of BN's campaign in four states, namely; Perak, Johor, Negri Sembilan and Melaka, shows that there is a void of a common national campaign tone to demonstrate the party's strength.
It's current modus operandi to fight detractors, for now, seems to be in the form of a centralised daily press conference by its newly appointed media coordinator, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, who is also a former Communications and Multimedia Minister.
BN's campaign operations here have been on a rather low-key note trend, with the focus being more on home visits and 'kenduri' or community feasts.
In Muar, the party's candidate Mohd Helmy Abd Latif has been reaching out to communities and going on his daily walkabouts and engagement sessions with electorates.
There have not been any big-scale events and his coalition's chief, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is yet to visit the state, let alone the parliamentary constituency.
Malay Mail learned that the young engineer who is in his early 40s, had risen quickly in Umno and is now the Umno Youth chief for Muar, but his presence among voters and that of his party machinery is yet to be felt.
The situation also appears the same in Pagoh, Labis and Kluang, where Muar's former three-term MP Datuk Seri Razali Ibrahim, MCA's Datuk Chua Tee Yong and Gan Ping Sieu are contesting respectively.
Gan, a lawyer seems to have taken his campaign into the virtual world on Tik Tok, where he has three channels at the time of writing with 9,932 followers in total.
Just yesterday, he shared a video of him learning beatboxing skills on one channel.
There are also other videos, in which he is seemingly trying to catch the attention of the youths.In Tanjung Piai, BN was faced with criticism, after announcing several allocations worth RM4.6 million.
Malaysian United Democratic Alliance’s (Muda) Tanjung Piai parliamentary candidate Lim Wei Jiet urged the Election Commission (EC) to take action after allegations of vote buying via projects, allegedly to secure votes for BN for GE15 emerged.
“The announcement was recently made by Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi in the presence of Tanjung Piai BN candidate Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng where the allocation includes RM4 million for the development of a food court, the construction of a community hall and an allocation of RM600,000.00 for six Chinese villages.
Lim condemned such ‘election candy’ that was deliberately announced while the GE15 campaign is taking place.
He said this has indeed become a BN habit, which sometimes hides behind the state government.
Announcements of projects and allocations dubbed "goodies" and "candies" to allegedly secure votes is not a new issue in Malaysian politics.
Other than BN, other political parties who are in power are also known to practice patronage politics as a populist campaign strategy.
In the run-up to the Tanjung Piai by-election in 2019, several Pakatan Harapan (PH) ministers were criticised for announcing government projects and allocations for the constituency. The PH coalition was then part of the federal government before its collapse after the Sheraton Move in 2020.
In Ayer Hitam meanwhile, MCA's Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong has been organising quite a number of programmes, but again, most are community-centric with no large scale events in sight as yet.
Ayer Hitam has been a BN stronghold but in GE14, Wee won the seat in a neck and neck battle by a mere 303 votes, against DAP's strategist, Liew Chin Tong.
Melaka and Negri Sembilan
In Negri Sembilan, PH flags have a strong presence in Rembau while in Rantau, BN flags are aplenty and highly visible, but the number dwindles as one slowly exits Rantau.
Even in areas like Paroi, a BN stronghold the party's flags are not as visible.
Over in Seremban and Rasah meanwhile, there are only pockets of BN flags/posters.
In Melaka, BN's campaign is seen to be slightly on a lower key this GE with fewer flags, except for certain areas in respective state seats.
Less BN flags were visible in Alor Gajah town whereas PH and Perikatan Nasional (PN) flags have higher visibility here.
More BN flags are visible in Durian Tunggal. Durian Tunggal is a BN stronghold and it was only won once by PH in GE14, which it lost again to BN in the 2021 Melaka state election.
In Melaka town, particularly Jonker Street, almost no BN flags were visible despite the state being governed by the coalition.
BN flags have higher visibility in Masjid Tanah, particularly in village areas. However, a food stall vendor here said BN would be "topping up" the flags soon.
The Malay nationalist party that was once known as the biggest spender during election season has seemingly turned its tide this time around, seeing how its competitors from PH and PN are having their banners and propaganda material overshadowing BN's.
Party insiders shared that certain constituencies only received a third of the amount required from the headquarters and had to dig deep into their own pockets for funds.
A party source said these constituencies are namely Tambun, where Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had made a grand entry and Sungai Buloh in Selangor, where former Rembau MP and caretaker health minister Khairy Jamaluddin is contesting in a seven-cornered battle.
The source said that an average parliamentary constituency campaign for Umno would need RM1.5 million, but some of the constituencies only received RM500,000 this time.
The balance amount had to be sourced from the candidate's income.
Umno which used to have larger-than-life billboards and buntings is long gone, as reflected in certain constituencies like Bagan Datuk where Umno's president and BN chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is contesting apart from Larut and Padang Rengas, which have been Umno strongholds.