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Analysts see fierce fight in Ampang's battle of women candidates

Nine candidates, five of whom are women, are vying for the seat held by PBM's Zuraida Kamaruddin.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Motorcyclists wait at a junction in Ampang, near a banner and billboard featuring Ampang incumbent Zuraida Kamaruddin.
Motorcyclists wait at a junction in Ampang, near a banner and billboard featuring Ampang incumbent Zuraida Kamaruddin.

Analysts expect a fierce fight for the parliamentary seat of Ampang, a dynamic Malay-Chinese constituency where five women are among the nine candidates battling for support ahead of the 15th general election (GE15). 

Ampang incumbent Zuraida Kamaruddin, representing Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM), will face off against Ivone Low Yi Wen of Barisan Nasional (BN), Sasha Lyna Abdul Latif of Perikatan Nasional (PN), Rodziah Ismail of Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Nurul Ashikin Mabahwi of Gerakan Tanah Air.

The men in the running for the seat, meanwhile, are Lai Wai Chong (Warisan) and independent candidates M Raveendran, Muhammad Shafiq Izwan Mohd Yunos and Tan Hua Meng.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Rabi'ah Aminudin of the International Islamic University Malaysia said the benefit of having a multiway fight among women was that women would be represented regardless of who wins. 

She said such scenarios were a common part of elections in other countries such as South Korea.

"It's better than fielding women candidates in seats that are not safe," she added. 

As the clock ticks down to election day on Nov 19, she said voters in Ampang this time around might cast their ballots along party lines instead of for individual candidates. 

While the Ampang seat was once known as a BN stronghold, it has been a PKR fortress ever since the general election in 2008, she said. 

For her, the candidates to watch would be Zuraida and Rodziah. 

"What's more, the Ampang incumbent has been embroiled in several controversies while her capacity as a minister was also disputed at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic," she said, referring to Zuraida's resignation as plantation industries and commodities minister and quitting Bersatu to join PBM.

"Rodziah meanwhile has long been active in Selangor politics and has held important portfolios in the state government. 

"If she has an effective strategy for approaching the voters in Ampang, I think the chances of the seat changing hands may be low." 

New faces from PN and BN, meanwhile, might need some time to build up their portfolios in the constituency, she said.

Zuraida won the Ampang seat on a PKR ticket with a majority of 41,956 votes in a four-way fight with candidates from BN, PAS and Parti Rakyat Malaysia.

She was appointed to the Cabinet after PH's historic victory at the 2018 general election. 

Meanwhile, analyst Bridget Welsh said that while female candidates were often marginalised, the Ampang constituency would be different as the individuals being fielded had different backgrounds and political bases. 

Welsh, of Nottingham University's Asian Studies Institute, said PH might have the edge this time as Umno's support base in Ampang had significantly declined. 

"And BN is fielding a Chinese candidate, which shows that they are unable to approach the voters from a macro stand, especially in the majority community areas where a large number of residents are from Malay villages," she said. 

Welsh said the local issues would also focus on problems at the grassroots level instead of those faced only by women and mothers. 

She said Ampang voters would likely focus on the development and management of the constituency, especially in terms of projects that would bring significant change to the environment there. 

She said many in Ampang were concerned about issues such as the management of landslides, local development and traffic congestion. 

While Zuraida had held the seat for a long time and could rally the support of the grassroots in the constituency, she said, her situation was not as favourable as those of the new candidates. 

"I think the most well-known of them all is the PH candidate, who is seen as a family person," she said. 

"She is also known as part of the local government, and I think this will give her the edge over the others who are less recognisable." 

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