After five days of campaigning, it appears that the Barisan Nasional has the upper hand in retaining its stronghold in the Bagan Pinang state by-election.
Indications are that the opposition alliance is struggling to make significant headway despite adopting various approaches and strategies.
Instead they are kept busy most of the time responding to the issues raised by the BN.
The BN's strategy of highlighting local development and fielding an experienced, charming and friendly candidate - Isa Samad - who is a local, seems to have neutralised some national issues raised by the opposition.
The opposition alliance, particularly PAS, seems to have focused more on local issues to woo the voters in Bagan Pinang, something which is seen as departing from their normal practice of focusing on national issues in their election campaign.
For example, they raised issues such as abandoned construction projects near the beach, inefficient sewerage system which pollutes the sea and traffic congestion but some party insiders are doubtful that this would swing the votes their way.
However, PAS' Bagan Pinang by-election director, Salahuddin Ayub, said they were still playing up the national issue but at the same time needed to focus on local issues as the BN had portrayed Isa as an experienced candidate to serve the constituency,having been a mentri besar before this.
"We need to highlight the local issues here to counter this, to show his failures," he said.
Whether it is just strategy or due to other factors, some members of the opposition pact privately revealed that the overall response towards their campaign had not been encouraging, even in the non-Malay areas.
"The reception towards us in some areas is still cold. Logistics are lousy. At the moment, we believe the majority of the non-Malay vote are still with us.
"We can be sure about the Indians but we are not so sure about the Chinese," a DAP leader told Bernama.
The DAP leader, who refused to be identified, said most of the voters they meet are cold towards them when they campaigned from house to house.
"I think the locals, particulary the Chinese, are very much reserved. They don't want to be associated with our ceramah. That explains the poor turnout at ceramah organised by us," he said.
Therefore the opposition was not sure of achieving the target of 75 per cent support from the non-Malay voters, from 65 per cent previously.
"It is a battle that is hard to fight as there are no strong issues for us to focus on. Can't find good rotten eggs. Permatang Pasir was easy as the BN had already committed suicide. Here the situation is different," he said.
A Gerakan leader who has been campaigning in the predominatly Indian areas concurred that there was some positive leaning towards the BN by the Indian voters as the reception they received in their house-to-house campaign was not as hostile as during the general election last year.
"In terms of support, Umno definitely has between 4,500 and 5,000 Malay votes while PAS hardcore is around 1,500 votes. In the last general election, PAS obtained 4,500 votes from the non-Malays.
"However, in this by-election, we can forsee some changes. The situation will improve in terms of the non-Malay votes although we expect it to be small," he said, adding that the campaign was divided and focused on small groups of voters.
Therefore, in the coming days, the BN is pushing hard for some changes among the non-Malay voters with a large-scale Mooncake festival tomorrow night and a grand dinner the following night to draw larger crowds.
"All these will be attended by the Deputy Prime Minister. Last time we only had 42 per cent of the Chinese voters here supporting the BN. However, this time around, we are targeting to hit 50 per cent," said Teluk Kemang MCA division chairman Yit Lee Kok.
The Chinese voters are mostly concentrated in eluk Kemang while the rest are scattered in small numbers in places like Sua Betong, Si Rusa, Silliau Town, Taman Eastern and Ladang Atherton.
BN election operatives claimed that another indication that PAS was struggling to make any headway was when they decided to go back to their old tactic of claiming that the election roll was not clean as a way out in the event they performed badly in this by-election.
PAS has also been reported that it may apply for an injunction to postpone the Bagan Pinang by-election if the Election Commission (EC) does not resolve the issue of the alleged irregularities in the electoral roll.
The party claimed that the irregularities happened when voters' names were registered in two areas, one under a military identification card and the other using the MyKad.-- BERNAMA