In Rantau, a chance for Anwar to prove naysayers wrong

Anwar Ibrahim helps himself to a scoop of dodol, a traditional sticky cake, during a campaign visit to Kampung Kuala Pasir in Rantau, yesterday.

SEREMBAN: A defeat or even a low-margin victory for Pakatan Harapan in Rantau tomorrow would not augur well for PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, says a political analyst.

Azmi Hassan from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said a comfortable victory for the ruling coalition is critical to disprove naysayers and critics who question the choice of Anwar as the next prime minister.

Anwar has been actively campaigning for Dr Streram Sinnasamy of PKR since nomination day on March 30.

“If PH wins, Anwar can say that it was because of his efforts on the campaign trail. So, the limelight is now on him.”

Streram faces Umno acting president Mohamad Hasan, as well as independents Malar Rajaram and Mohd Nor Yassin.

The Rantau by-election is the seventh after the historic May 9 polls last year. PH has won all but the last two by-elections.

Azmi said while he expected an opposition victory due to the combined forces of the PAS and Barisan Nasional election machineries, all is not lost for Anwar and PKR.

Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi said Mohamad Hasan’s victory is a foregone conclusion.

He said Negeri Sembilan under him had seen rapid development, including in the Sendayan township in Rantau.

“He’s incredibly popular too on the ground, not just among the Malays,” he said.

As such, Azmi said election goodies, such as a suggestion by Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook to realign the East Coast Rail Link track to pass Negeri Sembilan, would not be able to sway votes.

“Neither the ECRL announcement or allegations that Mohamad owns a luxury bungalow, or his infamous RM10 million money changer scandal from over a decade ago, will benefit either side in terms of votes.”

Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at Singapore Institute of International Affairs, agrees.

He said allegations of corruption against Mohamad would not be a good campaign strategy in Rantau.

“Corruption is never quite a major concern for rural folks who stress on more immediate benefits,” said Oh.

Oh too agrees that Mohamad will win, but the question is by how much.

Oh also said the Umno-PAS alliance is too formidable a force for PH.

Awang Azman predicts a “slim victory” for PH, that too if there is a “political miracle”.

Still, he said BN cannot be assured of a victory, as it could lead to a lower turnout due to its supporters’s confidence that it is a sure win.

He said BN will also need to get at least 20% of fence-sitters before it sleeps well tonight.