ALOR SETAR: The battle for Jerlun is turning out to be the fight to watch with two good friends formerly from the same party contesting against each other.
In what is shaping up to be a fierce fight for the largely Malay parliamentary seat, Jerlun incumbent Othman Aziz will be defending his seat against his good friend Mukhriz Mahathir.
Othman, who was nominated by Barisan Nasional (BN) today, said while he was good friends with Mukhriz, the coming polls was not about their friendship but the struggles of the party.
Mukhriz was recently announced as the Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate to contest the Jerlun parliamentary seat. He will also contest the Jitra state seat.
Othman welcomed the challenge and said it was Mukhriz’s democratic right to contest wherever he wanted.
“There is nothing personal. We are still very good friends. There is no animosity between us.
“It just so happened that he left our party. We were so close before this, but he left to be with the opposition. So it is unfortunate we have to face each other in the polls.
“But when it comes to an election, it is about the party, not individuals. It is about what the party can offer to the people. And we can offer them a realistic deal,” he told FMT.
Jerlun is expected to see a three-cornered fight among BN, PH and PAS, with Abdul Ghani Ahmad named by the Islamist party to contest the seat.
In the 12th general election (GE12), Mukhriz won the seat on a BN ticket by defeating PAS’ Idris Ahmad with a 2,205-vote majority.
However, in the next polls, Mukhriz surrendered the seat to Othman, and proceeded to contest the Ayer Hitam state seat, which he won with a 2,446-vote majority against Ghani.
Mukhriz was subsequently appointed menteri besar but he was ousted in less than three years in early 2016. He subsequently joined PPBM.
On the other hand, Othman defeated the then PAS candidate Ismail Salleh with an increased majority of 3,270 votes for the Jerlun seat.
The incumbent MP said being a local, he had an advantage over Mukhriz, but did not rule out the latter’s two-term experience in the constituency.
“We leave it to the people to decide. They know best who can offer them the assistance, whatever they need in the future — not only for a few days, not only intermittently or occasionally, but about serving the people throughout the five years.
“We do not promise the moon and the stars, but we know how to address the issues. We know what the people want, and we are going to offer them something we can deliver, to cater to the needs of the locals — the padi farmers, the fishermen and the rubber tappers.”
Othman said the spirit among the party workers and supporters was very high, expressing confidence BN would be able to win the Jerlun parliamentary seat as well as the state seats of Ayer Hitam and Kota Siputeh.
The Ayer Hitam state seat will be contested by Umno’s Abu Hasan Sarif while the Kota Siputeh seat will see a new face, Ahmad Azhar Abdullah.