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The Great Malay Battle of Kuala Trengganu - malaysiakini

Malaysiakini's report :

Political pundits view the upcoming Kuala Terengganu by-election as crucial in determining the current and future support for both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.


kuala terengganu parliament seat by election 2008 051208Popularly known as the 'Battle of KT', the results will reveal if the ruling coalition has managed to regain lost ground since the March 8 polls or whether the Anwar Ibrahim-led opposition alliance will become one step closer to realising its aim of forming the federal government.

The Kuala Terengganu seat fell vacant when incumbent Razali Ismail, also the deputy education minister, died of a heart attack on Nov 28.

razali ismailIn 2004, the Umno leader defeated PAS executive council member Syed Azman Syed Ahmad by 1,933 votes.

In the March 8 polls this year, Razali won by a slim 628 majority, defeating PAS heavyweight Mohammad Sabu and 89-year-old Maimun Yusuf in a three-way fight.

A Bernama report on the upcoming bout noted that Kuala Terengganu is not a safe seat for either BN or the opposition as it has changed hands many times.

The ruling coalition won in 1986, 1990, 2004 and 2008 but Parti Semangat 46 won in 1995 and PAS won in 1999.

mat sabu mohamad sabuIn the general election this year, PKR and PAS collectively obtained 33,729 votes in the four state seats within the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary constituency, or 1,795 votes more than the votes garnered by Mohamad Sabu (left) of PAS in the parliamentary constituency.

The Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat has always been a traditional battleground for BN (Umno) and PAS, with both always treating this seat with caution.

In the coming by-election, the report stated, it will be interesting to see how both sides will woo voters, barely eight months after the general election, to prove their popularity.

Internal tussle

According to PKR information chief Tian Chua, the opposition will adopt "a sophisticated way of campaigning" which would be based on a multiracial platform.

tian chua 02"As a mixed (or multiracial) party, we would have a slightly different campaign strategy as the needs of the urban voters are different (from the rural voters).

"It is the socio-economic background that will (influence) their decisions on who will be the winner, not their ethnicity," he was quoted as saying.

Chua also said the opposition front Pakatan Rakyat is optimistic about its chances but does not want to underestimate other contestants at the same time.

He said the "internal tussle within Terengganu Umno" could dent BN’s prospects.

Conflict arose over the selection of election candidates even before March 8, sparking another controversy afterwards on the selection of the Terengganu menteri besar.

"This is a Malay belt. If BN loses Kuala Terengganu, Umno's argument of still having support (of Malays) will be (questioned)," said Chua.

However, Bernama said some Terengganu Umno members deny the notion that internal bickering will be a stumbling block.

"The Kuala Terengganu Umno Division is united and this was seen in the recent divisional elections, which were conducted without much fierce contest," said a committee member who did not wish to be identified.

kuala terengganu by election wan farid bn candidate 031208For now, the name of Senator Wan Farid Wan Salleh, who is also the deputy home minister, is being touted as the favourite to lead the BN charge for the seat.

Internal squabbles are a normal phenomenon in any political party, including PAS.

For example, in the coming Kuala Terengganu by-election, each faction in PAS is said to be pushing for its respective candidate. The moderates are said to be favouring either Mat Sabu or Mustapha Ali, while the conservatives prefer locals such as Wan Mutalib Embong, the state deputy commissioner.

Commenting on this, party secretary-general Kamaruddin Jaafar said, "I would be lying if I said there is no struggle between the moderates and conservatives.

"But what is more important is that when the candidate has been decided, all factions will abide by that decision and the party machinery will come out in full force."

However, Chua noted that the PAS election machinery is rather disciplined and there is less sabotage or resistance once a decision has been made.

Non-Malay votes

This time around, according to Bernama, PAS has already sent clear signals that it is targeting the Bandar state seat, the only one in the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary constituency that was won by BN in the general election.

kamaruddin jaafar kamaruddin jaffarKamaruddin said PAS would increase its focus on Bandar, which comprises mainly non-Malay voters, while maintaining its edge in the Batu Burok, Wakaf Mempelam and Ladang state constituencies.

PAS wants to win over more non-Malay voters this time.

"We hope that they will give us a chance," said Kamaruddin.

Terengganu MCA chief Toh Chin Yaw is confident that support from non-Malays, particularly Chinese voters who make up 11 percent of the electorate, will keep the seat in BN hands.

He stressed though that “BN has to work very hard, not only for the Chinese votes but also the other votes".

"I think the balance of support will tilt to BN. When the general election was held, BN was at its lowest point for support but we managed to pull through (in Bandar). With the changing scenario now, I think we can even perform better," he said.

"If this sentiment and latest developments are taken into consideration, the odds are against Pakatan Rakyat since its credibility has been dented following the failure of its Sept 16 (takeover-of-the-government) campaign. -