Come polling day this GE14, the Malay-majority parliamentary constituency of Ayer Hitam in Johor will turn into a battleground of two Chinese giants - from MCA and DAP. Into the mix this time will be PAS which will present a new challenge in terms of where the Malay votes will go.
No matter how one wants to look at it, there is no running away from racial politics in Ayer Hitam, for it is a parliamentary constituency with an almost 58 percent Malay majority and only 38 percent of Chinese voters. There are 42,962 registered voters in Ayer Hitam.
Three-term incumbent, MCA deputy president and former Deputy Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong will stand for Barisan Nasional. On the other side, DAP is sending in its heavyweight, former Kluang MP and DAP Political Education Director Liew Chin Tong to contest as Pakatan Harapan's candidate.
Both men, are going into the ring with eyes wide open knowing fully well that this fight is not going to be easy for any of the candidates.
Ayer Hitam is a battle that was previously unimaginable but today it is deemed possible because of the circumstances of the nation
Wee learnt it the hard way in GE13 when his majority from the GE12 was unexpectedly slashed by half. In a two-cornered contest, a sizeable portion of the Chinese votes went to PAS which fielded a non-Malay Hu Pang Chaw as its candidate.
MCA is wary that this battle in Ayer Hitam is a 'do or die'. Every seat counts for the Chinese party which suffered badly in the last GE when they only managed to get 15 percent of the parliamentary seats contested nationwide, which was almost a wipeout.
As for DAP, winning this seat will be the sign of their strength of being able to "eliminate MCA".
Liew said he believes he will garner the votes because Wee is seen as representing UMNO when he stands under Barisan Nasional banner.
"The magic of campaign will happen in the course of campaign. Ayer Hitam is a battle that was previously unimaginable but today it is deemed possible because of the circumstances of the nation. People are fed up with Umno but they want to see leadership from the opposition side," said Liew.
While Liew said that the votes will go 40-60 to him and Wee, the latter said that it is not as simple as that.
"PAS got 21 percent of the votes the last time. I am not discounting that and DAP must remember that PAS will stand again. It is not a straight fight. It is not right to say I will get 60 percent of the votes just like that. There is the 21 percent to PAS which I must take into account. No one in their right frame of mind will say I will get 60 percent. I must work harder to get my votes," said Wee.
I am not a betting man. I don't want to 'syok sendiri' (self-praise). I am not taking my voters for granted
"They (DAP) only want to eliminate MCA - that is their rally cry. My concern is to look after my constituents. The constituents in Ayer Hitam are mostly Javanese Malays - they are hardworking folks whose main priority is to make sure they have food and education. They are also very particular about their surroundings. Each settlement is a parit, not a taman and for them this environment must be taken care of. Also, because they are into agriculture, the prices of commodity is also a big issue."
"I know this constituency for the past 15 years and I have been working here for three terms. We have a proper system (to deal with the problems) which serves the constituents. I can monitor this even when I am in Putrajaya," said Wee, who speaks Javanese and whose house is next to a surau in his constituency.
As to what is promised by the candidates for the voters of Ayer Hitam, Liew promises to fight for decent jobs with decent pay, lower cost of living and less crime.
Wee, on the other hand, said that besides the bread and butter issues, he mainly wants to see to the upgrading of the North South Highway (PLUS) cutting through Yong Peng, to turn Ayer Hitam into a proper transit and tourist destination.
"I am not a betting man. I don't want to 'syok sendiri' (self-praise). I am not taking my voters for granted," said Wee.