PETALING JAYA: An Amanah official has acknowledged that Pakatan Harapan has no chance of beating Umno in its stronghold of Gerik, a parliamentary constituency near the Thai border.
Speaking to FMT, Gerik Amanah chief Nasharuddin Abdul Rahman said Pakatan was hoping only to reduce Barisan Nasional’s majority, adding that the opposition pact could do this with campaign speeches focusing on local issues.
He said national issues, such as those surrounding the 1MDB affair, had no traction in Gerik.
“It’s all about bread-and-butter or local issues,” he said. “The price of rubber is one issue because 70% of the people here are rubber tappers.”
He added that the cost of living and land ownership were also relevant concerns.
“Many younger people don’t have land and are leaving Gerik,” he said. “It’s hard for them to earn a living here.”
He claimed that 40% of people who called Gerik home were living elsewhere.
Nasharuddin also said he believed Pakatan would be able to win over a lot of PAS supporters. “I think PAS can get only the votes of its members. People know that only PH can replace Umno. So I don’t think the three-way fight here will really affect us.”
Malays make up 65% of voters in Gerik. Chinese voters account for 20% and the rest are Orang Asli and Indians.
In the last general election, Umno’s Hasbullah Osman got 16,415 votes against PAS candidate Norhayati Kasim’s 10,199. BN also won the Pengkalan Hulu and Temenggor state seats within the constituency with comfortable margins.
Gerik Umno Youth chief Mohd Rizairi Jamaluddin said he expected BN’s winning streak to continue despite the popularity of Pakatan chairman Mahathir Mohamad.
“We can’t deny that Dr Mahathir is respected by many people,” he said. “But I believe the people of Gerik look more at parties than personalities during elections. They are with Umno and BN.”
He claimed that the expected three-way fight would favour BN.
Rizairi also said Gerik differed from many other constituencies in that BN enjoyed considerable support from the Chinese community.
“In the last election, MCA delivered nearly 15% of Chinese votes to us. We believe that this time it can deliver 20%.”
He attributed BN’s popularity in Gerik to the high level of infrastructure development there compared to what could be seen on the other side of the border.
“That’s why BN has never lost here,” he said. “Gerik is a fixed deposit for BN.”