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Its DO OR DIE for Najib in Kuala Trengganu - malaysiakini

Malaysiakini's report:

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak couldn’t have made it any clearer - the upcoming Kuala Terengganu by-election is crucial for Umno. Indeed for him, Kuala Terengganu is the key to reversing Umno’s fortune.

At a meeting with top editors last week, the prime minister-in-waiting has likened Kuala Terengganu to the by-election in Parit Raja 20 years ago, which saw Umno Baru raising from the ashes after being mauled in Johor Baru months earlier.

According to sources, Najib reiterated at the meeting the need for Barisan Nasional and Umno - the party which will lead the battle - to win Kuala Terengganu.

The Jan 17 by-election will be the second electoral battle after BN’s disastrous performance at the general elections in March last year.

Five months ago, Umno was defeated at Permatang Pauh - dubbed as the mother of all by-elections - which saw PKR de facto leader Anwar knocking out his opponent from his former party with an even bigger margin.

The seat was vacated by PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to pave the way for her husband to make a triumphant return to Parliament.

If Umno were to lose Kuala Terengganu, where Malays comprise almost 90 percent of the voters there, it would deal a fatal blow to the party’s standing within the majority community.

Can Umno repeat history?

Here’s a little history lesson.

In 1998, Umno was bitterly split into two factions - Team A and Team B. This has resulted in the ruling party being declared illegal by the court and having to rename itself Umno Baru.

In August that year, Team B’s current Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Shahrir Samad, who refused to join Umno Baru, resigned from his Johor Baru seat to force a by-election.

According to scholar Hwong In-Won in his book, ‘Personalized Politics: The Malaysian State Under Mahathir’, the by-election was a popularity test for then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's new party.

Shahrir, who stood again - this time as an independent candidate - won the racially-mix urban seats with an even higher majority which saw a swing from both Malay and Chinese voters.

However, two months later at the Parit Raja by-election - a state seat also in Johor - Umno Baru’s candidate beat another independent candidate from Team B.

Umno Baru won that battle with a narrow margin of 413 votes despite that the Team B candidate was widely believed to be comfortably ahead during the election campaign.

Parti Raja was seen as the turning point for Umno Baru and the by-election decisively stop Semangat 46, which was led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, in its tracks.

Najib believed that by winning Kuala Terengganu, his embattled Umno could repeat history and halt the opposition tide and begin the road to recovery.

Editors surprised by Najib’s tone

Najib’s meeting with key editors from both the electronic and print media was held at his official residence. Also presence was Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.

It is learnt that Najib had repeatedly told the editors that if BN were to lose KT, the consequences would be drastic.

For the editors who have frequently attended media briefings with government leaders, the serious tone came as a surprise as they were more used to broad hints rather than a direct dressing down.

According to sources, Najib also commented on the recent hudud controversy triggered by PAS vice-president Husam Musa's declaration that his party would implement the Islamic criminal code if it was to catapult into power.

Najib argued that the issue represents a double-edge sword for BN - while the minority Chinese voters might be affected by Husam's controversial statement and could be more inclined now to vote BN, hardcore Muslims would be voting for PAS.

Husam had since clarified that PAS must first get consent from other Pakatan Rakyat members before hudud can be implemented.

Also at the meeting, TV3 was taken to task by Tengku Adnan for its reporting which earned the wrath of Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Said.

Ahmad has slammed the private TV station for subjecting him to negative reports since he took the helm in Terengganu.

It is rare for the Umno secretary-general to question news coverage of a TV station linked to Umno. However, sources at the meeting said the TV3 representative stood up to defend his station. -