The ‘election monsoon’ is raging in the tiny, northern state
I WAS back in Perlis for a wedding during the nominations weekend and the conversations on the 15th General Election (GE15) were intense, considering most family members and friends back home are laid-back.
The first point of contention: Why did Barisan Nasional (BN) not field Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim for P101 Arau?
While many may think he’s been around too long, more than 40 years in politics, they also acknowledged that as long as he stands under any political banner or even as an independent, it’s his seat to win. As one elderly voter puts it: “Even the late Datuk Dr Haron Din, who was way more popular and respected, didn’t win against him (in GE13).”
With Shahidan contesting under Perikatan Nasional (PN), locals said the five state seats under the Arau constituency — N11 Pauh, N12 Tambun Tulang, N13 Guar Sanji, N14 Simpang Empat and N15 Sanglang — will probably, naturally follow and fall into PN hands.
A Simpang Empat resident Haron Musa said the incumbent state assemblyman Nurulhisham Yaakob (BN-Umno) won the seat by only 82 seats in GE14. “Villagers want someone who is willing to come down to the grassroots and listen to our problems and try to settle them. Someone who takes care of them, like Shahidan does. It’s time for a change.”
The general feeling in the state is that the current Mentri Besar (MB) Datuk Seri Azlan Man drew up an Umno/BN list of candidates that are known to fall in line with his plans. This comes at the expense of other capable local figures, including an Umno senior member who was tipped to be the favourite and first-time candidate for P102 Padang Besar.
Which brings me to the second point of contention. BN “parachuted” in Puteri Umno chief Datuk Zahida Zarik Khan all the way from Selangor to contest in Padang Besar and dropped two-time incumbent Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin.
The protest from locals is resounding. “Perlis is so small and yet you want to give a slice of it to an outsider?“ said a Padang Besar voter. Another local who’s a P103 Kangar voter said: “You think we don’t have capable Perlis-born or someone who’s family was from Perlis to run? Karut!”
A Perlis-born professional said: “Calon bidan terjun is a no-go for Perleh, please. Unless you have a proven track record like Khairy Jamaluddin’s (who’s parachuted in to stand at P107 Sungai Buloh), chances are the locals will just turn away.”
(Note: Many angry epithets were heard over the weekend directed at Umno/BN.)
Out of the three MP seats available in the tiny northern state, only one seems to be an assured win for BN — P103 Kangar. But not so much because the candidate is from BN and Umno, but rather due to his popularity with the locals.
According to one voter who wants to be known as just Kak Ndun, Datuk Dr Fathul Bari Mat Jahya, 42, is an active and well-known figure in the state. But for the state seat N7 Sena, Kak Ndun is leaning towards voting for “Abah”, ie Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s PN.
State seats (Perlis has 15), she said, should go to candidates that are really on the ground and would know what the constituents need. And PN candidate Datin Marzita Mansor embodies that as someone who is close to the grassroots, she said.
With the animosity and indifference expressed by many local voters towards Umno/BN, it is no wonder that talks of a PN state government is rampant in Perlis. As one local puts it: “BN doesn’t seem to care about the rakyat (here). So, maybe it’s time to let someone else care.”
This leads us to MB Azlan, who is defending his state seat N6 Bintong against five other candidates. He won the seat in 2018 with a majority of just 847 votes.
This time around, his popularity is at an all-time low and his street cred among the locals is taking a beating, especially with what are deemed as his latest “blunders” with Shahidan and Padang Besar. Many in his voting area are seriously considering voting against the “Mr Know-It-All”, as he’s dubbed, and consequently, Umno ie BN.
PN may just end up laughing all the way to the polls this Nov 19 in Perlis.
Hazatul Syima Haron is the executive editor, production, at The Malaysian Reserve.
- This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition