A referendum on the Perak power grab

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Anil Netto takes a look at the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat in Perak the results of which should indicate to us whether the people regard Nizar as their “Mentri Besar yang sah”.

The Bukit Gantang parliamentary by-election is turning out to be a referendum on the recent power grab in Perak led by Najib with Zambry as figure-head.

The by-election pits Nizar, who needs no further introduction, with Ismail Safian, a Solid Waste Management and Public Cleaning Corporation human resources director. A USM graduate from the Housing, Building and Planning faculty, Ismail is the Kampung Kubu Umno deputy branch chairman.

In the larger scheme of things, it will also be a referendum on Najib’s ascension to the top post in the land as well as the Pakatan’s claim that Nizar is the “Mentri Besar yang sah”.  The prospect of Najib taking over the country will figure prominently in all three by-elections.

Taking overall charge of all three by-elections will be the new Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin. This means Najib will no longer be directly involved in the  three by-election campaigns – after leading the BN to two embarrassing by-election losses in Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu. But we can be almost certain he will be keeping close tabs on how all three campaigns are progressing.

Locally, the by-election will be a big test for Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who has been tasked with spearheading the Batu Gantang by-election. Zahid polled the highest among the three Umno vice-presidents.

The Pakatan, on the other hand, will rely on Nizar and Perak Speaker Sivakumar as their main trump cards. Between the two of them, they should be more than a match for the BN.

The seat fell vacant following the death of its former MP Roslan Shahrum from Pas on Feb 9.

About the constituency

Bukit Gantang lies south and west of Taiping and it has 56,000 voters including over a hundred postal voters. It is a Malay-majority area (63 per cent) with 32 polling stations and 111 voting streams or rooms (saluran).

Within the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat lie three state assembly seats: Kuala Sapetang, Changkat Jering, and Trong.

In Kuala Sapetang, a seaside estuary famous for its sea food especially crabs, the PKR’s Tai Sing Ng defeated the Gerakan incumbent See Tean Seng in the 2008 general election by 564 votes. This is a Malay majority area (60 per cent) with a sizeable Chinese minority (32 per cent).

It will also be a referendum of sorts in the Changkat Jering area over the PKR defections to the ruling coalition in Perak. It was here that the PKR’s Mohd Osman Jailu upset the Umno incumbent Mat Isa Ismail in the 2008 general election by 1,102 votes. Osman has since declared himself a pro- BN independent so it will be interesting to see to what extent the voters here will punish the BN for frustrating the popular will of the Perakians. Their anger will be telling, their frustration will be punishing. Malays make up 64 per cent of the voters in this area.

Trong, a 70 per cent Malay-majority area, is an Umno stronghold but Pas’ Nor Azli Musa managed to reduce the incumbent Umno assembly member Rosli Husin’s majority from 3,020 in 2004 to 916 in the 2008 general election. So how will Nizar fare here? In many ways, this will be a real test of Malay support for Nizar as he has been accused by Umno campaigners of being a puppet of the DAP.

2008

PERAK: P59 – Bukit Gantang

Voters: 55,471

  

Party

Candidate

Votes

Majority

UMNO

Datuk Azim Zabidi

18449

PAS

Roslan Shaharum

20015

1,566

IND

M Morgan

872

 

2004

PERAK: P59 – Bukit Gantang

Voters: 53,880

  

Party

Candidate

Votes

Majority

GERAKAN

Tan Lian Hoe

16846

8,888

PAS

Dr Lo Lo Mohamed Ghazli

10144

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