PETALING JAYA: Pahang PKR’s Lee Chean Chung has acknowledged that winning Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Pekan parliamentary seat in the next general election (GE14) will be extremely difficult, but still not impossible.
He told FMT that the reason he believes it’s possible is because the opposition had come close to defeating the incumbent in the 1999 general election.
In 1999, PAS’s Ramli Mohamed lost to the then education minister Najib by the slimmest of margins. Barisan Nasional (BN) won Pekan with a majority of 241 votes from the 26,055 valid votes cast.
“If we did it once, we can do it again. Also, if Pakatan Harapan does win the seat, it will deal a serious blow to BN,” Lee said, adding that it will also be an enormous challenge for the opposition based on its historical significance.
Najib was first elected to the Pekan seat in 1976, when he was only 23 years old. Prior to that, the seat was held by Najib’s father and second prime minister, Abdul Razak Hussein, who passed away while in office in January 1976.
Najib has been Pekan MP since, except for the period between 1982 and 1986. In the 1982 general election, Najib ran for a state seat and became Pahang menteri besar for one term.
The fact that the Pekan constituency has more than 95% Malay voters according to the statistics department’s 2010 census could also potentially cause issues for the opposition.
Lee also claimed that there had been an increase in army camps in the parliamentary constituency since 1999, making it even more challenging for Pakatan Harapan to win the seat.
Earlier this year, former prime minister turned opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad had alleged that Najib had cheated in order to win the Pekan parliament seat in 1999.
“Najib will cheat. In 1999, when he almost lost in Pekan, he resorted to bringing in Orang Asli people and soldiers, and they were forced to support him. As a result, he won with just 200 votes,” Mahathir said at a PPBM rally in Balik Pulau, Penang in February.
In 1999, Mahathir was then BN chairman and prime minister, when a vast number of Malays decided to vote against Umno, in the wake of Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking from Umno and the government.
“The 1998 Reformasi era may have helped push support for PAS’ Ramli in 1999, but with the same scenario of former Umno giants being part of the opposition, what happened in 1999 could end up happening again,” Lee said.
He said a lot depended on how Pakatan Harapan could persuade the Malays to vote for it.
“We believe the people on the ground are looking for change but must be pointed in the right direction.
“PPBM will also be able to significantly weaken BN’s popularity there and it will be very interesting to see the dynamics now that Mahathir has turned his guns around.”