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Northwest Perak rides Ubah wave

 | May 3, 2013

Success of Pakatan functions brings despair to BN supporters.

TAIPING: To go by the size of ceramah crowds since last month’s dissolution of Parliament, Pakatan Rakyat will win big in Taiping and Bukit Gantang as well as in most of the state constituencies within them.

The folk of northwestern Perak, except perhaps some of the Indians among them, seem to be enthusiastically welcoming the Ubah wave sweeping through the nation. Thousands of them have been turning up for Pakatan events in the area since last month’s dissolution of Parliament.

In contrast, crowd sizes at BN ceramahs have been pathetically low.

Cynics would no doubt question the reliability of using ceramah attendance as a measure to determine voting support. Even Pakatan chief Anwar Ibrahim—arguably the biggest crowd puller of them all—has voiced caution.

However, the difference is too great to ignore.

For example, in Aulong last Saturday, the MCA and MIC functions looked more like get-togethers for members of exclusive country clubs than political ceramahs when compared with the DAP forum, which drew at least 10,000 people. That is a staggering number, considering the size of the town.

Some observers attributed the success of DAP’s Aulong function to the presence of DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng. However, it was obvious to anyone who stayed to the end of the ceramah that the star of the night was not Lim, but Nga Kor Ming, the secretary of Perak DAP.

Lim took the stage first and did mesmerise the crowd with a fiery speech, drawing applause that echoed through the narrow streets of Aulong’s Taman Pertama.

Nga arrived late, rushing down from similar events in Beruas and Pantai Remis. He was virtually mobbed by the crowd, with hundreds scrambling to shake his hand, to assure him of their support and to ask him for his autograph. Despite the lateness of the hour, they stayed to enjoy his witty speech and afterwards posed with him for photographs.

Aulong, like Kamunting and Pokok Assam, is a state seat within the Taiping parliamentary constituency. In 2008, DAP won both Aulong and Pokok Assam. Kamunting went to Umno’s Mohd Zahir Abdul Khalid.

Some BN supporters have not been able to hide their despair. A couple of MCA members told FMT they were sure that BN would lose in Taiping and Bukit Gantang. Furthermore, they said, Pakatan was likely to capture seven Perak state seats that are now in BN or independent hands.

Zambry’s failure

Caretaker menteri besar Zambry Abdul Kadir has apparently failed to shore up support for BN through his strategy of ensuring frequent working visits to the state by caretaker premier Najib Tun Razak and his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin.

As elsewhere in the country, BN candidates in Perak also face the possibility of sabotage by party members unhappy with parachute candidates or disappointed that they were not chosen to contest in the polls.

Again, as elsewhere in the country, much of the new support for Pakatan comes from young Chinese and Malays.

There appears to be a slight change of political direction among Indians. A local Pakatan activist put it this way: “They have been hypnotised by Najib’s handouts.”

The Taiping parliamentary constituency has 78,327 voters. Nearly 48% of them are Chinese. Malay voters make up 37.1% and Indian voters 13.5%.

In the 2008 polls, Nga thrashed the incumbent, PPP chief M Kayveas, with a majority of 11,298.

As for Aulong, incumbent Yew Tian Hoe went in as an independent candidate on nomination day last month because DAP had decided to field Leow Thye Yih instead. But he has since followed DAP strongman Lim Kit Siang’s advice and declared his support for Leow. The other candidate for the seat is Gerakan’s Soo Kay Ping.

In Pokok Assam, the combatants are Nga’s political secretary, Teh Kok Lim, MCA’s Ho Cheng Wang and independent Mohd Yusoff Abdul Hamid.

In Kamunting, which is an Umno stronghold, it is a straight fight between incumbent Mohd Zahir Abdul Khalid and PAS’s Fakhrudin Abdul Aziz. The town has an army camp and most of the postal votes are likely to go to BN, but Fakhrudin’s workers say he has a 50% chance of winning. In 2008, Zahir beat his PAS opponent by only 555 votes.

In Bukit Gantang, Umno’s Ismail Safian lost to Perak Pakatan chief Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin in a 2009 by-election that followed the death of MP Roslan Shahrum of PAS. Ismail now has a second shot for the seat. His opponent is PAS’s Idris Ahmad. PAS is confident of retaining the seat.

Nizar is not contesting for a parliament seat this time around, but he is expected to win in the three-corner fight for the Malay-majority state seat of Changkat Jering, which lies within the Bukit Gantang area. The other state seats in Bukit Gantang are Trong and Kuala Sapetang.

Nizar is facing Bukit Gantang Umno chief Rosli Husin and independent candidate Zulkefli Ibrahim.

Kuala Sapetang is also seeing a three-corner fight, and the combatants are PKR’s Chua Yee Ling, Berjasa’s Zainal Abidin Abdul Rahman and Gerakan’s Loh Swee Eng. In 2008, PKR’s Tai Sing Ng beat Gerakan’s See Tean Seng by 564 votes, which is a small majority for a constituency with more than 25,000 voters.

PAS’s Norazli Musa is making his second attempt for the Trong seat. In 2008, he lost by 916 votes to Umno’s Rosli Husin. For the coming election, Umno is fielding former Mardi director Zabri Abdul Wahid.

If one were to go by the 2008 election results, Pakatan seems to have only a 50% chance of winning Kuala Sepetang and Trong. However, supporters and workers for the opposition pact are confident that the hard work they have put it over the past five years will pay off at the ballot box. They say the support from Chinese voters will make the difference.


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