(From left) Independent candidate Dr Ang Chuan Lok, Pakatan Harapan candidate Karmaine Sardini, Berjasa candidate Datuk Dr Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz, Barisan Nasional candidate Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng, Gerakan candidate Wendy Subramaniam and Independent candidate Faridah Aryani Abd Ghaffar, pose for a photo after the nomination process at Dewan Jubli Intan in Pontian on Nov 2. -NSTP/Hairul Anuar Rahim

PONTIAN: Today, 52,698 Tanjung Piai voters will cast their ballots and choose one of the six candidates to be their new representative in the Dewan Rakyat.

There will be 27 voting centres with 125 channels where party workers are expected to convince voters one last time to vote for their candidates.

The Election Commission is expected to announce the results before 8.30pm tonight.

A voter turnout of between 65 and 70 per cent is expected.

The 14-day campaigning period for the by-election was filled with much fanfare. There were compliments and accusations, blunders and slips of the tongue, as well as campaigns that called for unity versus racial sentiments.

An Election Commission officer inspecting a ballot box in Pontian, Johor, yesterday. -NSTP/Hairul Anuar Rahim

The two main contenders of the by-election are Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) Karmaine Sardini and Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng, although of late, more voters had voiced their intention of choosing Gerakan hopeful Wendy Subramaniam and Datuk Dr Badhrulhisham Abdul Aziz from Berjasa.

Independent candidates, Dr Ang Chuan Lock and Faridah Aryani Abd Ghani, were dismissed as mere distractions.

Campaigning styles of Ang and Faridah were not on a par with their four other rivals due to one obvious reason: insufficient funds.

It was the same for Gerakan and Berjasa. But their determination to win the parliamentary seat became apparent in the second week, when both parties started going all out to meet voters and put up more party flags and banners around Tanjung Piai.

Although urged by the top Pas leadership to back the BN candidate in the spirit of Muafakat Nasional, many of Pas’ supporters rallied for Berjasa. The party is, after all, part of Pas’ Gagasan Sejahtera pact.

Since earlier this week, many Berjasa supporters were spotted standing under the blazing sun, waving the party flag and posters with Dr Badhrulhisham’s image on them.

Several Malay voters said their votes would go to Wendy.

Election Commission chairman Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun (left) observes his staff during the preparation at the polling centre in Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Bunian, Pontian. - NSTP/Hairul Anuar Rahim

“I saw her in kebaya. She has my vote,” said one middle-aged man in Kampung Parit Sulaiman here.

“I’m tired of BN and PH. Might as well choose a newcomer.”

Others predict that two-term Tanjung Piai member of parliament Wee would be re-elected as he was always on the ground to meet constituents, at least twice a month. His victory is crucial as this is possibly MCA’s last chance to prove its relevance in the country and among the Chinese.

“If MCA wins, it will send a signal to PH to fulfil its promises. Focus on the economy, strengthen unity, resolve the Bottom 40 group’s issues and boost people’s incomes by using better policies than BN did.

“When the economy is bad, everyone, regardless of race, will feel unhappy and will not hesitate to send a message to the government that they want a change and they want it fast,” said Universiti Malaya’s political analyst, Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi.

Wee has had the backing of Muafakat Nasional heavyweights from BN and Pas. Chinese voters were seen flooding ceramah organised by MCA, while Malay voters thronged Muafakat Nasional’s ceramah.

The gap is apparent between the two communities here. Politicians employing racial sentiments in their speeches only serve to make things worse.

Party flags flying high during the recent Tanjung Piai by-election. NSTP/HAIRUL ANUAR RAHIM

This was probably why Institut Darul Ehsan, in its recent survey, said the Chinese support for PH was still strong, only a three per cent drop from the 14th General Election.

Some voters were unhappy with Wee’s recent Facebook post where he allegedly opposed the Jawi-khat implementation in schools.

Voters were unhappy not because of his opinion on Jawi, but the fact that he edited his Facebook post and later blamed the media for spinning his words.

Being branded a liar is not good for Wee’s image.

However, some might vote for Wee to send a signal to the PH government due to a perceived lack of change.

“The problems we face today are due to years and years of neglect.

“For instance, the cost of living did not just rise over the past year and half since PH took over,” said Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong.

Election Commission staff applying final touches at the polling centre in Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Bunian, Pontian. -NSTP/Hairul Anuar Rahim

Karmaine might be able to convince voters otherwise. His education and religious backgrounds are to his advantage.

He was a teacher and an imam. He was with Umno and now with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. He understands the predicament of the B40.

Whether Datuk Dr Md Farid Md Rafik’s legacy will be continued, will depend on the outcome of today’s polls.

The by-election will determine how much the livelihood of the people in Tanjung Piai will improve.

All candidates and their machineries have done their best to prove that they are worthy of the people’s votes.

May the best candidate win.