BAGAN DATUK: “Wǒmen shì Bagan Datuk rén, Wǒmen shì mǎ lái xī yǎ rén. Wǒmen shì yī jiārén hé Bagan Datuk rén shì wǒ de péngyǒu,” said Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in Mandarin at a gathering with the Chinese community here today.
The simple phrase, which meant “We are all the people of Bagan Datuk, we are all Malaysian citizens, we are one family, and the people of Bagan Datuk are my friends”, endeared him to his audience.
In the 14th general election (GE14) on May 9, Zahid, 65, a local boy from Rungkup, is set to defend the Bagan Datuk parliamentary seat for the sixth time in a three-cornered fight with PKR candidate Pakhrurrazi Arshad and Ata Abdul Muneim Hasan Adli from PAS.
Outside of the election season, it was Zahid’s practice to go back to his hometown often and sit with the locals, regardless of race and religion, at coffee-shops, during walkabouts and visit the families of those who had died.
In fact, Zahid had long been warming up to the political campaign, and after being named as the candidate, he has pushed up his campaigning activities a notch.
As part of his campaign today, in the afternoon, Zahid went on a walkabout to the Chinese-majority area in Kampung Bagan Sungai Burung, where there is a fishing community, while at night, he was involved in several other programmes.
He spent more than an hour talking to the voters, moving from shop to shop, meeting the voters, and assuring them that Barisan Nasional was the party which could deliver in terms of economics, education and security.
In his speech, Zahid inserted several simple Mandarin words like “tajia hao” (how are you?) and “buyao” (don’t) and spoke Malay with a Chinese dialect, all of which received thunderous applause.
The mood was certainly different from the official functions which he had to attend.
Addressing himself as a “local boy”, the closeness that Zahid has with the local folks, some of whom are old friends, including many Chinese and Indians, were clearly an advantage to him.
In GE13, Zahid defeated PKR candidate Madhi Hasan in a straight fight with a 2,108-vote majority.
One of his close friends, Beh Song Wan, 55, when met by Bernama, said despite being the country’s second in command, Zahid’s moderate and friendly character as well as his work in bringing development projects in Bagan Datuk would attract the voters to give him the mandate again.
“Whenever he returns to the constituency, he would put aside his position as DPM and go about meeting the public. He is also a visionary person as he has turned the barely-known Bagan Datuk into a vibrant district that is now known by many.
“Zahid’s colour-blind approach is one of the factors why we must choose him because he is the person who really knows the aspirations and the heartbeat of the Bagan Datuk constituents,” he said.
As of now, a total of 62 development projects, involving RM1.34 billion, are being implemented in Bagan Datuk.
This includes a bridge connecting Bagan Datuk to Kampung Sejagop, Perak Tengah, costing RM466.9 million, the Waterfront Tourism Jetty, a polytechnic and a sports complex.
For Bagan Datuk MCA chairman Ang Kim Chong, based on the development brought by Zahid to the Bagan Datuk parliamentary constituency, the shifting trend of Chinese voters’ support, from the opposition to BN, was expected to continue due to the satisfactory economic performance brought by BN.
“The special 18-point manifesto for the Chinese community, launched by Zahid, that focuses on their wellbeing and to improve the economic status of the fishermen, will definitely increase the vote majority for the DPM because if there is no DPM, then there will be no development here,” he said.
The Bagan Datuk parliamentary seat has 47,215 registered voters.