The big number of independent candidates contesting in the Bukit Selambau state seat by-election on April 7 is a manifestation of the uncertain political situation in Kedah, according to a political analyst.

Dr Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Faruq, a political science lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), said 13 independent candidates contesting against Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Datuk S. Ganesan and Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) S. Manikumar could cause the votes to be much divided among the candidates.

“But if BN wins, it shows the trend of support is changing in favour of BN after it lost in Kuala Terengganu and Permatang Pauh. This is what BN wants; to see such a changing trend among voters,” he told Bernama, here, today.

Azeem Fazwan said the participation of many independent candidates perhaps indicated divided support due to the unacceptance by certain sections of the voters, of the candidates chosen by the dominant parties, PKR and BN.

“The only thing is, it’s difficult to know who are the people behind these independents.

“This also shows that the community is pretty divided.”

He said if BN gained victory, it could also be translated into the Bukit Selambau voters’ acceptance of the new Umno leadership chosen at the just-concluded party general assembly in the federal capital.

However, he said, the issue in Bukit Selambau was more about local problems rather than national matters.

He also felt that the internal problems in PKR could give an edge to BN in the by-election, while the Malays who made up half of the 35,140 registered voters in the area could be the determining factor on April 7.

“This is because the mood of the Indian voters, who form 29.5 per cent, is difficult to predict although they tend to be anti-establishment,” he explained.

“But then, their mood may also change after Kedah came under PAS’ control after the last general election,” he added.

Chinese voters comprise 19.3 per cent of the voters while the other races make up one per cent.

Assoc Prof Dr Ahmad Nidzammuddin Sulaiman of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s (UKM) Historical, Political and Strategic Studies Centre, however, felt that the big number of independent candidates would provide the opportunity for BN to win the seat.

“BN has a bigger and much better organised campaign machinery than the independent candidates. Many of the voters are also located in rural or interior areas, making it more difficult to be reached without the resources while too many independent candidates can confuse the voters,” he said.

He also agreed that the rift in PKR could to a certain extent help the BN candidate to win.

However, Ahmad Nidzamuddin did not dismiss the possibility of an independent candidate winning the seat based on the outcome of the 12th general election on March 8 last year.

Meanwhile, historian Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim said the participation of so many independent candidates in an election had not happened before in the country’s political history.

“I don’t know what’s the strategy behind all this. Politics in the old days were now like now as the people then were not too complex,” he said.

Khoo observed that usually an election would only involve a straight fight or three-cornered fight.

“In some instances, an independent candidate would be fielded by a certain group to split the votes but with 13 independent candidates (in Bukit Selambau) now, it has become just too complex,” he said.

The independent candidates are R. Loganathan (using the oil palm symbol), Tan Hock Huat (key), Radzi Md Lazim (chair), Mohd Fadzil Abdul Wahab (tiger head), Abdul Rahim Abu (alarm clock), L. Sarala (bicycle), A. Jayagopal (umbrella), S. Moganakumar (book), Khamis Awang (rooster), Husaini Yaacob (bus), M. Vanesan (fish), Maj. (Rtd) Anuar Abd Hamid (telephone) and T. Chandrarajan (aeroplane).

The Bukit Selambau by-election is being held following the resignation of its assemblyman V. Arumugam from PKR on Feb 8.

Arumugum had won the seat as an independent candidate in the last general election by defeating BN’s S. Krishnan with a 2,362-vote majority.