Observers: Gerak Independent will struggle to win in GE15

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They will just split the votes.

Gerak Independent (GI) candidates may face an uphill fight to win in the 15th general election (GE) as they are not equipped with election machinery, political observers said.

The movement’s decision to contest in seats held by Pakatan Harapan (PH) will benefit only Barisan Nasional (BN) and/or Perikatan Nasional (PN), they added.

GI last week announced its plan to contest in the Batu, Subang, Petaling Jaya, Wangsa Maju and Kota Kinabalu parliamentary seats – all held by PH and considered opposition strongholds.

The Independents set to stand in the seats are activist and human rights lawyer Siti Kasim (Batu), former journalist Charles CJ Chow (Subang), activist KJ John (Petaling Jaya), Wangsa Maju resident Raveentheran Suntheralingam (Wangsa Maju) and Sabah-based lawyer Roland Cheng (Kota Kinabalu).

However, Chow quit the movement last night and said he will not contest the Subang seat.

Former Umno MP for Sungai Benut, Tawfik Ismail, is set to stand in a sixth seat, which has yet to be decided.

James Chin told The Malaysian Insight that while he is fond of some individuals in GI, he dislikes some choices made by the group.

By contesting in seats held by PH, GI is giving BN and/or PN a chance to win the seats, said the leading commentator on Malaysian politics.

“I support many of its candidates. I think we need some of them in Parliament, but I disagree with the choices it has made; for example, to contest in Subang.

“Subang has a competent MP, Wong Chen. I do not understand why it wants to ‘kacau’ (disturb) a seat where the lawmaker is doing a good job.

“It is better for them (GI candidates) to go after seats where the MPs are incompetent.

“In terms of winning, I do not think they stand a real chance. They will split the votes and give the upper hand to Umno or MCA or whoever is going to contest.”

Voters prefer candidates from a political party as they believe that Independents cannot make a big impact in Parliament, said the University of Tasmania professor.

“The reason why Independents cannot win is because they cannot do much in Parliament. They can get votes, but they will make things worse for the opposition.”

Iman Research’s Badrul Hisham Ismail shares Chin’s sentiment.

GI is not contesting against BN or PN, but PH with whom it shares a common political understanding, said the programme director.

He added that to win, the movement should at least have election machinery to get its campaign moving.

“It is hard for Independents to win, especially in a GE. For them to win, they need election machinery.

“You win not because you are a famous celebrity, but because of your election campaign and machinery. You need to have the connection with the people, the grassroots, and that is the job of your (election) machinery.

“As for GI, it baffles me why its candidates are going against PH. It is like you are taking the easy route. Go on to fight BN and PN on their turf (instead).”

GI, which previously touted itself as a third force, said it is open to forming strategic alliances with other parties or individuals to further its cause – making the country fairer to all.

Its candidates will be tied to five commitments – the Malaysia Agreement 1963, ending divisive politics, restoring guaranteed freedom to the people, restoring institutional power back to the people and establishing a needs-based affirmative policy or poverty-eradication programme.

The movement was launched in August last year, and is headed by the Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation (Maju) and other civil society groups.

Maju founder Siti Kasim said GI aims to change Malaysia via the only viable solution – Parliament.

Independents need an alliance

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said GI needs an ally and to be part of a political party.

Citing candidates in past polls, he said Independents cannot win on their own.

“It would appear that Independents’ track record to stand and win on their own accord or in a loose alliance has not been an effective one.

“Prominent activists will have to somehow align with or temporarily ‘park’ themselves under, or even obtain tacit and thinly veiled support of, major parties to have a realistic winning chance.

“Maria Chin (Abdullah), Wong Tack and P Prabakaran are all such examples.”

Chin was an activist before contesting under the PKR banner in GE14, when she won the Petaling Jaya seat.

Environmental activist Wong defeated MCA stalwart Liow Tiong Lai to win the Bentong seat in 2018. He contested on a DAP ticket.

Prabhakaran won the Batu seat as a PH-backed Independent. He later joined PKR.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Mazlan Ali also said GI has a slim chance to win.

“It is not easy as an Independent. Look at Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, who fought as an Independent in Port Dickson in 2018. He didn’t win despite being a former menteri besar.

“How can GI win when its candidates are not even known by the public? They can get votes, but to win is almost impossible. They will just split the votes.” – TMI