While Anwar Ibrahim is expected to win the Port Dickson by-election tomorrow, a think tank has predicted that former Umno veteran Isa Samad will be his strongest opponent.

Ilham Centre also said that based on a survey it conducted, PAS could lose its deposit.

The centre’s CEO, Azlan Zainal said although Isa was contesting as an independent candidate, he was still very influential in a couple of state seats, namely, Linggi and Bagan Pinang.

Azlan said that the former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar’s personal touch with voters as well as the constituents’ familiarity with his family were among the factors expected to favour the former Felda chairman.

“A majority of the respondents, especially senior citizens and Umno veterans, we spoke to agree that Isa Samad has contributed a lot and helped develop the constituency when he was the Bagan Pinang assemblyman and the Negeri Sembilan MB,” Azlan said in a statement.

But Isa, Azlan said, would lose the Chinese and Indian votes, adding that the non-Malay votes would still be with Pakatan Harapan.

This is why, he explained, the other candidates, other than Anwar, were going all out to woo the non-Malays.

The survey, Azlan revealed, also predicted that Isa would lose the youth votes and some of the support from Umno members as he had resigned from the party. Umno is not contesting in the by-election.

“Scandals linked to Isa Samad and his failure in Felda have affected his image among young voters,” he added.

What about PAS?

Ilham Centre’s survey predicted that PAS would fail to garner enough Malay votes and would likely come in third in the seven-cornered fight for the parliamentary seat.

The Islamist party could also lose its deposit.

Azlan said that support for PAS has waned, especially after a majority of its members defected to Amanah three years ago.

The centre also observed that the party’s machinery focused on canvassing votes among the Malay community, especially Umno supporters, with PAS marketing itself as an alternative to champion the Malay and Muslim cause after Umno decided to stay out of the by-election.

“PAS is aware that they cannot compete with Anwar, so their main focus is to retain the number of votes they secured in the 14th general election and to be Anwar Ibrahim’s closest contender.”

The Mahathir factor

Azlan went on to say that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to campaign for Anwar had increased the morale of the Pakatan Harapan machinery and given a boost to the acceptance of the PKR president-elect’s candidacy among the Malay community.

“It also helped quash talk about the supposed strained ties between the two.”

Earlier this week, Mahathir, who is also the PH chairman, went to Port Dickson to campaign for Anwar in a bid to dispel rumours of a falling-out with his former nemesis turned ally.

Mahathir previously said that he would not participate in campaigns for by-elections. However, he said he had decided to do so as people were saying “all sorts of things” about him and Anwar.

“They are talking about a quarrel with Anwar. Then they say I don’t support Anwar because of my quarrel,” he said.