People attending a Pakatan Harapan ceramah in Kukup on Wednesday. PIC BY HAIRUL ANUAR RAHIM

PONTIAN: AS the Tanjung Piai by-election race draws closer, the mood among the voters is changing just like the weather here.

Last week, it was scorching, but as rainfall hit southern Johor, the support for Pakatan Harapan (PH) began pouring in, too, based on the results of a survey by Institut Darul Ehsan (IDE) recently.

IDE said PH was leading the race at 53 per cent with Barisan Nasional trailing at 44 per cent. The survey involved 1,200 respondents.

This close contest should not come as a surprise as the PH machinery has been working round the clock to go to the ground, meeting supporters and critics alike to convey their side of the story.

PH candidate Karmaine Sardini has been making his rounds from as early as 5.30am. His schedule usually starts at the mosque, where he performs subuh prayers with his campaign team members.

Karmaine’s schedule ends around midnight daily. This is a lot to take for a 66-year-old.

“He knows how hard he has to work. Karmaine is trying to adjust to life as a potential Tanjung Piai member of parliament,” a source close to the party told the New Straits Times.

Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who, on Wednesday, was buoyed by the reception from voters, said support was leaning towards PH.

He may be trying to lift the spirits of the machinery, but knowing Muhyiddin, he usually does not like to appear overconfident.

According to IDE, Malay support for PH in Tanjung Piai has increased from 32 per cent during the 14th General Election to 48 per cent now.

Tanjung Piai voters, especially Malays, can’t forget Barisan Nasional and its former chairman, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

All the reminders of corruption and abuse of power played up by PH prior to GE14 are fresh in their minds.

Banners of Najib and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, which don the oil palm-lined roads in Tanjung Piai, have triggered unpleasant memories for them.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s appearance in Kukup on Wednesday night lent PH the much-needed boost, perhaps enough for a win in tomorrow’s polls.

The Tun M factor cannot be dismissed. He was, after all, the main reason Malaysia saw a change in government last year.

He was a crowd-puller in Kukup as all 2,000 seats at a mega ceramah were taken up.

Dr Mahathir’s speech, with a note of sarcasm, served to remind voters why they booted out BN 18 months ago.

“It is true that we can’t keep blaming the previous government and, at the same time, we are trying to continue to develop the country and ensure the people’s welfare,” he said.

“Those who follow the ongoing court cases must have noticed that all the damage done following cases of corruption and abuse of power had almost destroyed the country.

“This is why the government is taking steps to ensure that such things do not recur and our leaders will no longer have a chance to acquire wealth without fearing the consequences.”

The IDE survey revealed that the Chinese support for PH stood at 61 per cent, a slight drop of three per cent from GE14.

This shows that despite BN and MCA claiming that they have the Chinese votes in the bag, the opposition coalition was simply being hopeful to ensure that MCA would not suffer a political death after defeats in the last few general elections.

Reports of disgruntled DAP members, while true, only involved a small number as the PH machinery saw supporters of all races planting banners and flags around Tanjung Piai.

A Chinese voter, who wanted to be known only as Sim, said he had no qualms about PH’s decision to field Karmaine, due to his religious background.

“I’m a Chinese and I have a religion, too. That’s why I support Karmaine. He is a good man and is very pious.”

Sim, who is also a party worker, said he was not happy with Umno’s attempts to undermine the PH-led Johor government, adding that the ruling coalition should be given a chance.

“The damage done by BN in the past is too much. PH needs time to undo it.”

Muafakat Nasional’s apparent “racist” and “extremist” image is not helping BN, especially among the Chinese voters.

Even though Pas’ top guns appeared on the same stage with MCA leaders, it remains to be seen whether it will carry weight to ensure polls candidate Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng’s victory.

With signs pointing to a possible PH win, all the ruling coalition needs to do is to convince the constituency’s 12 per cent fence-sitters to vote in its favour.