KT by-election: The likely candidates
Beh Lih Yi & Muda Mohd Noor | Dec 3, 08 5:32pm
Deputy Home Minister and senator Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh is widely considered the front-runner for the ruling Barisan Nasional’s choice of candidate in the upcoming Kuala Terengganu by-election.
Wan Ahmad Farid, who is also the Kuala Terengganu Umno division chief, was among five names that were rumoured to be the possible candidates for BN.
The other four are Terengganu Umno treasurer Roslan Awang Chik, information chief Zuber Embong, Kuala Terengganu division deputy chief Mohd Sabri Alwi and the division’s former information chief Mohd Zuber Embong (no link to information chief Zuber).
However, Wan Ahmad Farid – a former political secretary to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in the Internal Security Ministry – has emerrged as the leading contender on the back of his popularity and his post as the party’s division chief in the constituency.
Another factor was his senatorship – his three-year term is due to expire in three weeks on Dec 22.
He is considered a ‘political heavyweight’ among the five and therefore deemed suitable as the seat was previously held by a deputy minister.
Nasharuddin to lead PAS machinery
The Kuala Terengganu seat fell vacant after incumbent Razali Ismail, the deputy education minister, died of heart attack while playing badminton in Genting Highlands last Friday.
The Election Commission is scheduled to announce the dates for the nomination and polling on Friday.
Razali was a two-term Kuala Terengganu MP and had contested on Umno’s ticket.
He defeated PAS vice-president Mohamad Sabu and 89-year-old Maimun Yusuf in the March 8 general election, winning with a slim majority of 628 by bagging 32,562 votes against Mohamad’s 31,934 and independent candidate Maimun’s 685.
Meanwhile, there appears to be a change of strategy in rival PAS when the party picked its No 2, Nasharuddin Mat Isa, to head its election machinery.
Nasharuddin will be assisted by the party’s national election director and PAS state chief Mustafa Ali.
Conventionally, Mustafa should have been the person leading the charge and the change this time fueled speculations that the party’s senior leader could be one of PAS’ possible candidates.
Asked whether Mustafa’s name is on the list, Nasharuddin declined comment.
“I am not sure about that. (The change of strategy) is because while this is a by-election, the party decides to make it a national affair,” said Nasharuddin in referring to his appointment as the head of the by-election machinery.
Asked on the party’s likely candidate, he reiterated that the Kuala Terengganu division – which is meeting today – will be putting forward its recommendation to the state and subsequently to the national leadership for consideration.
“The division’s recommendation will not be made public today as we expect the party’s central working committee to have the final say on the matter on Dec 21,” he told Malaysiakini.
While the decision on the party’s candidate is pending, Nasharuddin revealed that the PAS’ election machinery has already started work on the ground.
Among the names of the candidates that are being bandied about by PAS grassroots included former candidate Mohamad, ex-Kuala Terengganu MP Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi and the state’s deputy chief, Wan Mutalib Embong.
Mat Sabu refuses to openly offer himself
When contacted, Mohamad – popularly known as Mat Sabu and for his fiery yet witty oratory skill – said he will not offer himself as the candidate.
“The party has yet to make any decision so it’s better we leave it to the party to decide and I will abide to the party’s decision,” the party vice-president told Malaysiakini.
Mohamad, who hails from Penang, declined to comment on the clamour from the Kuala Terengganu division for a local to be fielded in the coming by-election.
Nevertheless, he was of the view that PAS stands a better chance to win by bagging an increase of Chinese votes, which accounted for about 10 percent of the voters.
“This is because DAP is now with Pakatan Rakyat and I think no matter who PAS picks as the candidate, we can get additional Chinese votes,” he said.
Despite Mohamad declining to openly offer himself as a candidate, Kelantan Menteri Besar and PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat said he was rooting for the veteran politician to contest in the by-election.
According to Star Online, the senior leader considered Mohamad as ‘a man of calibre’ and suitable to be the people’s representative for Kuala Terengganu. He nevertheless stressed that his statement was a personal opinion.
“He has the gift of the gab … and he is very articulate to the extent that I cannot do what he can do when he goes on stage,” the menteri besar was reported as saying.
Akim and Maimun – the wild cards
Apart from BN and PAS, Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia (Akim) – a PAS splinter group – has also expressed its interest contest in the polls.
Akim president Hanafi Hamat, was recently defeated in the August Permatang Pauh by-election by PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim, said his party is planning to join the fray.
Not to forget too, Maimun, the grandmother who ran as an Independent in the general elections nine months ago and took enough votes away from Mohamad to deny him victory, could again be the wild card.
She has indicated that she could contest again if she could raise enough funds.
According to statistics at the March general election, there are 80,325 eligible voters in the parliamentary seat, with Malays constituting 88.2 percent, Chinese (10.9 percent), Indians (0.6 percent) and others (0.2 percent).