Battle for PD in full swing

Mohd Isa and Mohd Nazari, in particular, are capable of giving Anwar a good run for his money

By BERNAMA

Five days have passed since nomination day for the Port Dickson (PD) by-election but all seems calm on the campaign front even though seven contenders are eyeing the Parliamentary seat.

In the fourth by-election since May’s 14th General Election (GE14), Pakatan Harapan’s Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will face six other candidates but many observers opine that the PKR president-elect still has what it takes to slay his opponents easily.

The candidates taking on Anwar at the Oct 13 polls are Lt Col (R) Mohd Nazari Mokhtar from PAS and independents former Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar (MB) Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, Stevie Chan Keng Leong, Kan Chee Yuen and the “rose among the thorns” Lau Seck Yan.

The election machinery is now in full operation at the seaside resort town of PD and, determined to claim victory, it has embarked on all-day-long campaigning to win the hearts of the voters and explain to them the major issues facing the nation.

Pakatan Harapan knows fully well that the fight for the PD constituency is not going to be a walk in the park as Mohd Isa and Mohd Nazari, in particular, are capable of giving Anwar a good run for his money.

A total of 75,770 voters are registered to vote in the by-election, which was called after Datuk Danayal Balagopal Abdullah — who won the PD seat on a PKR ticket in GE14 — vacated his seat on Sept 12 to pave the way for Anwar’s return to Parliament.

What is now known as the “PD Move” is also to facilitate the transition of the prime minister’s (PM) mantle from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Anwar, as per the agreement reached by the Pakatan Harapan coalition parties PKR, DAP, Bersatu and Amanah.

Stiff Competition

Where the battle for PD is concerned, having a veteran “political animal” like Mohd Isa as an opponent can not only seem unnerving but also put the brakes on Anwar’s otherwise easy access to the Dewan Rakyat, according to political observer Mohd Roslan Mohd Saludin.

Although he believed Mohd Isa did not have the clout to defeat Anwar, Mohd Isa may provide stiff competition.

“He was Negri Sembilan MB for 22 years, so his political background and experience will be an advantage for him.

“For sure, he has a strong network (in PD) which will make it easier for him to campaign for support from among the voters, particularly those aged 40 and above,” Mohd Roslan, a former fellow at the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia, told Bernama.

Mohd Isa, 69, was also former Felda chairman and had previously served as the state assemblyman for Linggi and Bagan Pinang, both state seats in the PD Parliamentary constituency.

With his wide political experience, the other lesser-known candidates would also be “easy meat” for him, reckoned Mohd Roslan.

Another candidate seen as capable of putting up a fight is Mohd Nazari, 57, a retired Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) officer and president of the Army Retirees and Veterans Welfare Club.

Mohd Roslan said Mohd Nazari, who hails from Batu Pahat, Johor, may not be well-known but he may secure some sympathy votes from the soldiers stationed at the army camps in PD and military retirees who have settled down in this town.

As for Johor Baru-born Mohd Saiful Bukhari, 33, it was clear he had entered the fray to fulfil his own personal agenda, said the political observer.

The former aide to Anwar has admitted that he fielded himself as a candidate in the by-election merely to “block” his former boss’ bid to return to Parliament and eventually become the PM.

Campaign Strategies

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) senior lecturer Dr Syed Agil Syed Alsagoff said in planning its strategy, it was a wise and mature move by PAS to field an ex-RMAF officer as a candidate.

Mohd Nazari’s religious knowledge, as well as his organisational and military experience, would stand him in good stead.

“He will be among the more popular candidates at this by-election and may win a lot of postal votes from the (army) officers and soldiers who are among the voters in PD,” said Syed Agil, who is attached to UPM’s Department of Communications.

“Although he is not a local, Mohd Nazari has good academic qualifications in the field of defence and management. His RMAF background will appeal very strongly to voters based in the army camps in PD.”

Syed Agil said the sense of loyalty displayed by the uni- formed forces would certainly have an impact in terms of where the votes from the local military community will go to.

Furthermore, he added, the PAS candidate, who is PAS Tenggara Johor chief, is also known for his Islamic manage- ment approach.

Commenting on Mohd Isa, the academic said he was there “just to split the votes” and that he was also expected to raise issues related to Anwar when he was in Umno, which may potentially reduce Anwar’s popular vote.

Syed Agil was dismissive of the other candidates, namely Mohd Saiful and the three independents representing the Chinese community, claiming that they would not have much of an impact on Anwar.

National Agenda

Mohd Roslan, meanwhile, said Pakatan Harapan’s campaign issues and strategy were ostensibly to fulfil its intention to make Anwar the eighth PM of Malaysia.

“They want Dr Mahathir to (eventually) hand over his post to Anwar. The PD by-election is the platform for this transition to take place,” he said.

He also opined that Anwar’s opponents would not be able to raise major issues that have the clout to sway the votes away from Anwar and Pakatan Harapan.

The other candidates, he said, seem to be still “groping around in the dark”, while Pakatan Harapan’s election machinery is already well underway.

“Pakatan Harapan’s compet- itive spirit is still strong and it is still in victory mode having defeated BN (Barisan Nasional) just recently after trying to do so for 20 years.

“Pakatan Harapan’s has already attained its national agenda by overpowering BN. The PD by-election is just to complete its bigger plan (that is, to make Anwar the PM),” added Mohd Roslan.

Syed Agil concurred, adding that the Oct 13 by-election is also an important avenue for Anwar to prove that he is still popular among the people.

He said being an articulate speaker, Anwar’s speeches are something the people looked forward to as he is able to expound his views and arguments and hurl criticisms effectively, especially with regard to issues like the Pakatan Hara- pan government’s policies, the sovereignty of the rulers and the interests of the Malays.

“The people of PD also want to hear what kind of plans Anwar has in store for them and to develop the town into a more popular tourist destination.

“I’m sure the local people view Anwar as the candidate who can develop PD better. Many of them also see him as a capable leader who can make the Pakatan Harapan govern- ment more progressive after he becomes PM,” added Syed Agil. — Bernama