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Battle for Malay hearts and minds

Posted: 11 Jul 2013 04:09 PM PDT

Infighting among local Umno warlords (remember the fate of former Malacca chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam who may have lost all with a totally unexpected defeat) and a general rethinking of political positions among locals who are known to be indeterminate in their political allegiance makes the Kuala Besut by-election a chancy outing for the BN.

Balan Moses, The Sun

THE battle for political supremacy among the Malays is being taken into what can be deemed the quintessential Malay heartland: Kuala Besut.

It cannot be anything other than this in a state constituency where almost 100% are Malays representative of a state-wide electorate that has been engaged in a tug of war for decades over whether they want a secular or Islamic party to lead them.

The Barisan Nasional and its precursor, the Alliance, have ruled the state since independence save for two periods – between 1959 and 1962 and 1999 and 2004 – when PAS was in power.

But the equation has changed somewhat in recent times with PAS claiming qualified political ascendancy after the March 5 general election when it added seven seats to its final tally.

From BN 24-PAS 17 before the general election, the seat count stood at BN 17 and PAS 15 on March 6, giving the BN a razor-thin majority of one (or is that two given that the speaker has the casting vote).

Altogether an untenable position for the BN, and for that matter PAS as well, with neither able to carry out their political agendas as they watch their backs for knives coming out of "friends" who may be tempted to jump ship.

This can, indeed, work both ways if PAS has "frogs" within itself. Both the BN and the opposition have seen instances of diehard elected representatives crossing the political floor for the flimsiest of reasons.

A defeat for the BN in the July 24 by-election will mean a 16-16 equation that may require a snap state election.

This may just be the thing that Terengganu needs at the moment to clear the air on which party – BN or PAS – that the people want to lead them.

Things in the state are in a state of flux with uncertainty hovering over the heads of politicians on both sides of the divide on whether they have the mandate to rule.

Infighting among local Umno warlords (remember the fate of former Malacca chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam who may have lost all with a totally unexpected defeat) and a general rethinking of political positions among locals who are known to be indeterminate in their political allegiance makes the Kuala Besut by-election a chancy outing for the BN.

Anything is possible in the political equation in Terengganu as can be seen in PAS's shocking victory in 1999 when it won 28 seats to the BN's four. Four years later, BN came back in force with an equally brain-numbing reverse in numbers.

Therefore, if anyone were to say that we live in thoroughly exciting political times, it would really be an understatement.

Ever since the results of the 2008 general election stunned Malaysians into acceptance of the fact that the politics of the country was facing inexorable change, little can be deemed shocking in the political arena.

Then, March 5, 2013 came and confirmed this as a fact, with PAS losing Kedah to the BN but with the Pakatan Rakyat winning a whopping 89 seats in Parliament to the BN's 133 seats.

Today, with the national spotlight on Kuala Besut, an idyllic seaside town that has probably never seen the kind of attention it has been getting since its assemblyman Dr A. Rahman Mokhtar died on June 26, things have changed for sure in Terengganu.

The BN candidate, Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Abdul Rahman, a Drainage and Irrigation Department engineer, will take on PAS's Endot @Azlan Yusof, in what is expected to be a no holds barred fight.

But if anyone thinks that the dynamics centre around issues in the constituency or even the state, they are sorely mistaken.

To be sure, the BN and PAS candidates go into the polls against the backdrop of a larger political drama playing out in the national theatre between the ruling government besieged by a new-found independence among its non-Malay components and a sometimes clumsy Pakatan occasionally fumbling with its structure and priorities.

In the BN's (and PAS's) first by-election after the 13th general election, the ruling party enters the fray a mite more diffident than it did on March 5 given PAS's ability to add seven seats to its final tally at the recent hustings.

I believe PAS may be able to swing some votes away from the BN on July 24 but for the Islamic party to expect to win the state seat may be chimerical at best.
But again given the nature of Terengganu politics, anything is possible.

Balan Moses is executive editor (news) at theSun.


Barisan Nasional has more to lose in battle for Kuala Besut

Posted: 11 Jul 2013 01:38 PM PDT

Rasvinjeet S.Bedi, The Star

The Kuala Besut by-election will be one of the most-watched as voters will decide if it leads to a hung Terengganu state assembly.
Banners and flags of both parties are already fluttering in the cool east coast wind ahead of polling on July 24, a scene replayed soon after the May 5 general election.

The seat fell vacant following the death of Umno's Dr A. Rahman Mokhtar who passed away on June 26. 

The by-election is a straight fight between engineer Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Abd Rahman, 37, of Umno and businessman Azlan Yusof, 48, of PAS.

Even though it is the holy month of Ramadan, thousands gathered outside the Kompleks Rakan Muda nomination centre here on Friday to support the two candidates.

While Kuala Besut was once well-known as a fishing town, it is more famous now as the departure points for the Perhentian Islands, popular with tourists from all over the world. 

Located at the Kelantan-Terengganu border and about 110km from the state capital Kuala Terengganu, the idyllic town will be in the intense spotlight for the next two weeks.

Regardless of whether the Speaker has the deciding vote in deciding the fate of the state, the assembly will have equal numbers on both sides should PAS wins this time round.

In the May 5 general election, Barisan won with a majority of 2,343 votes against PAS.

As it stands now, Barisan has 16 seats and the opposition 15.  Both Barisan and PAS will now have to do their utmost to ensure victory.

Barisan is confident of retaining the seat and former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, the Besut strongman, even targeted a 4,000 majority on July 24.

A confident Idris, who is Besut MP and Education and Higher Learning Minister, had even suggested to PAS to concede the by-election to "lessen the politicking".  

PAS however has hit back calling Idris arrogant and even declared that they stand a chance of winning the seat they last won in 1999.

Barisan is fielding Tengku Zaihan, a former Department of Drainage and Irrigation engineer. While his father is a well-known religious leader in Kuala Besut, not much is known about 37-year-old Zaihan who worked in Putrajaya previously.

PAS on the other hand is relying on popular businessman Azlan.  Also known as Che Long to the locals, the 48-year-old runs a saw milling business along with his other ventures. 

Azlan, the Besut PAS treasurer, is said to be a big funder of PAS' campaigns in the area.

At first glance, both candidates seem unprepared to contest this by-election and not very media savvy.

Knowing what's at stake, the big guns from both Barisan and PAS have already made their way here to win the hearts and minds of the 17,683 voters, including 1,149 absent voters.

The locals here definitely know what is at stake and some believe that there might be instability should there be equal numbers of Barisan and opposition members in the assembly.  

Some think that fresh state-wide elections, coming just over a month after the May 5 polls, could become a reality.

Or even if Barisan loses the seat but retains the state because of the "Speaker advantage", there might be problems if another by-election had to be called.

One thing for sure is that Barisan has definitely more at stake in this by-election.  


Kredit: www.malaysia-today.net

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