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The contest for the Sungai Buloh parliamentary seat is shaping up to be an interesting contest between Barisan Nasional’s Khairy Jamaluddin and Pakatan Harapan’s Ramanan Ramahrishnan.

Khairy is, of course, both a popular and experienced politician though he is not without baggage. Many remember that he, like other UMNO politicians, chose to remain silent about the 1MDB scandal. His critics also fault him for his lack of transparency on other issues as well.

Overall, however, he is seen as more progressive, less inclined to exploit race and religion and far more professional than most of his colleagues. He earned high marks for the competent manner he managed the Covid health crisis and was by far the best performing minister in cabinet. 

His somewhat thuggish behaviour – captured on a campaign video that is now going viral – in which he promised to “destroy” anyone who “tests his patience”, was, however, not one of his better campaign moments.

Ramanan, on the other hand, has little to boast of. He is best remembered as a former MIC treasurer-general who resigned under a cloud. It took many by surprise that PKR would field such a lightweight political non-entity against Khairy. Sungai Buloh voters might even feel insulted that such a candidate is being foisted upon them by PKR.

Khairy has now upped the ante by declaring that winning Sungai Buloh is the next step in his journey to someday becoming the president of UMNO and prime minister of Malaysia. It is a bold, even audacious appeal, to voters – particularly the 68% Malay voters in the constituency – to look beyond Zahid Hamidi and the current sorry state of UMNO.

It’s a brilliant response to concerns that a vote for BN is a vote for Zahid to become prime minister. It is no secret that Khairy and Zahid are not on the best of terms. Some observers believe that Zahid moved him from Rembau to Sungai Buloh in the hope of finishing him off. 

Diehard PH supporters insist, however, that every seat counts and that it is foolish to suffer another five years of BN rule “just to let a nice guy win”. Besides, now if you vote for Ramanan you can stop two wannabe prime ministers at the same time.

So, what we have in Sungai Buloh then is a contest between a candidate (Khairy) who wants voters to focus on him instead of his party and a candidate (Ramanan) who is hoping that voters will ignore the shortcomings of the man and vote for the party. 

Let’s see which appeal will sway voters. If Ramanan loses, PH will only have itself to blame for for fielding such a lacklustre candidate against the man who would be king.

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 9th November 2022]