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H Selangor elections: Juicy gossip adds to festive air

Contributed by Anonymous on Monday, April 19 @ 23:11:12 CDT

NST, Apr 20 2010 POLITICS in Malaysia is truly exciting. Having been away for the last decade, I have, since returning two months ago, noticed that so many things have changed dramatically, especially the nature of the political landscape. I left when Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) was new, finding its feet. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the leader. PKR is still around, and the Barisan Nasional, under Datuk Seri Najib Razak is fast regaining its popularity among voters since the 2008 political tsunami.

Najib's 1Malaysia has really caught on and has now become a household phrase among the young and old.

Compared with the hype and intensity of elections in Malaysia, there are no such things as ceramah in the United Kingdom, while we never see the candidate going around to meet voters, attend public functions.

I have been amazed, as a result, of the goings on in Hulu Selangor. There is an air of festivity in this otherwise quiet town, located just about an hour's drive from the Klang Valley. The momentum has been gaining pace since the announcement of the by-election earlier this month, rising to a peak on nomination day last Saturday.

Since then, the only conversation at coffee-shops and roadside warungs has been focused on the by-election and who would likely clinch the seat. Of course, there is also the juicy gossip on the respective candidates' backgrounds.
There is a three-cornered fight for the parliamentary seat after an independent, V.S. Chandran, pulled out yesterday. BN's P. Kamalanathan is taking on Datuk Zaid Ibrahim from PKR. An Independent candidate, Johan Mat Diah is also in the fray.

I find the atmosphere truly overwhelming. Large crowds pack ceramah every night, while the town is lined with posters and banners from the contesting parties.

The presence of Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin adds to this air of excitement. Overall, like in any by-election, the constituents are the ultimate winners.

Mohamed Hanif Hasan, 27, from Felda Soeharto, sees the by-election as a blessing.

The prime minister visited the estate in early April and announced a RM32 million housing project for settlers in the area.

He said, "this is definitely a step towards improving the quality of life in this area. I hope this project will also reduce unemployment in the area."

It is heartening to see such optimism among these Felda settlers. They live in areas which are isolated and cut-off from the rest of the world and despite rising temperatures of the election fever, life for these settlers continues at its pace.

Every Sunday, there are friendly football and netball matches which brings the entire community together, regardless of age.

The Star

Tuesday April 20, 2010 Zaid's battle with perception COMMENT By BARADAN KUPPUSAMY
While Zaid is hoping Anwar would give him an advantage and deliver the Malay votes, Barisan campaigners led by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin are out to do the opposite. IN previous by-elections, Pakatan Rakyat leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would make a grand entrance, give a tour-de-force spee­ch and move on, leaving the nut s and bolts work of winning the seat to others. But the April 25 Hulu Selangor by-election is different. You would think that it is Anwar who is contesting and not PKR candidate Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, 59. Anwar is campaigning in the constituency nearly every day with back to back rallies that go well past midnight. He is not leaving the hard work to other PKR or Pakatan leaders, not even to Zaid. Instead, he has personally taken charge of the battle, indicating how important the by-election is to reviving the flagging fortunes of PKR that took a beating after several of its MPs and state assemblymen left in recent months. The defection reflects poorly on his management of the party and the coalition, and gives the unmistakable impression that his ship is sinking. Anwar is putting everything into this battle, hoping a win in Hulu Selangor would erase the negative perception of the PKR. Besides, he is giving everything because his potential heir, Zaid, is staking his political career in the battle and Anwar wants to ensure that he wins. “It is like a personal mission for him (Anwar),” said a PKR insider. A defeat would not only impact on Zaid’s political career which took off after he resigned as an Umno leader and minister in 2009, but would also show that Anwar is losing political steam and that his dream of capturing Putrajaya is all but over. Zaid’s resignation, a calculated move ostensibly over the use of the Internal Security Act, had earned him respect among ordinary Malaysians for walking the talk. He is banking on that fame which brought him national stature to win over Hulu Selangor voters. That fame has an impact in the urban centres including among the urban electorate in Hulu Selangor. However, among rural folk who are the majority, the question frequently asked is why Zaid did not work with the system to make gradual reforms and instead sought immediate and radical change. Umno campaigners are explaining in the Malay villages across the constituency, like in Ulu Bernam which is 80% Malay, that Zaid is not a team player and not a true reformist as he makes it out to be. “He is too radical and demanding,” an Umno campaigner told voters in Kampung Selisik, near Ulu Bernam, last week. Umno is deflecting Pakatan’s criticism that Zaid resigned because Umno was against reforms. In fact, the Barisan campaign is built around the theme and slogan “Barisan Nasional can reform”. Campaigners also question Zaid’s liberal character including his alleged alcohol consumption. Such accusations, which first appeared in blogs, have riled PKR vice-president Azmin Ali, who is no friend of Zaid, into challenging critics to produce evidence. In politics, perception is everything and evidence is not necessary to convince rural folk or for that matter, voters in general. That is why MIC deputy president Datuk G. Palanivel was dropped as candidate – he has mountains of files to prove he worked hard as a four-term MP but the public saw him as having just warmed the seat. That perception alone is enough, in the altered political landscape post-2008, to see Palanivel dropped in favour of P. Kamalanathan, 44, a fresh faced candidate who can make a “please give me a chance” pitch. On the other hand, Zaid’s liberal image which works well for him among urban clientele is a handicap in the deeply conservative Malay villages where attendances for Pakatan rallies, even with Anwar as the head, are thin. The reception for Zaid in the urban towns, in contrast, is enthusiastic and among Indian voters the reaction is mixed, with MIC members, after some dismay over the candidate issue, closing ranks around Kamalanathan. Barisan felt that it could not win over the majority Malays with Palanivel but is more confident of winning them with Kamalanathan who is fluent in Malay and has a well-honed public relations sense. By sticking with the MIC, too, Barisan signals that its power sharing formula is still at work. Barisan feels with Kamalanathan, it stands a better chance not just with the Indians who make up 19% of the 64,000 voters, but also with the majority Malays at 57% and urban Chinese voters who are about 27%, with Orang Asli making up the balance. Significant support from all of the communities is necessary to win. Both candidates and their teams are aware of this reality as they visit mosques, wet markets, churches and remote Orang Asli villages to meet voters. While Zaid is hoping Anwar would give him an advantage and deliver the Malay votes, Barisan campaigners led by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin are out to do the opposite – present a clean, young and scandal-free candidate who can hopefully garner enough votes from all communities to snatch victory. The independent candidate Johan Mohd Diah is not expected to make much headway in the contest.
Palanivel says Hulu Selangor is Umno’s battle By Baradan Kuppusamy Kuala Kubu Baru, April 17 — Former Hulu Selangor in*****bent and MIC Deputy president Datuk G. Palanivel, who made an appearance at the nomination centre today, said the onus is on Umno to convince the voters to vote for Barisan Nasional (BN) in the Hulu Selangor by-election. He said the MIC, which has been rocked by the BN decision to drop him in favour of P. Kamalanathan, will help to campaign but the real job is for Umno because Hulu Selangor is a Malay majority seat. He added MIC members in Hulu Selangor will come out to vote for BN. “There is no doubt about this. They are disappointed but they will support Barisan. MIC members will only support Barisan and no one else,” he told The Malaysian Insider when met outside the nomination centre here today. “You don’t expect them to vote opposition…do you,” he said. Significantly there were few Hulu Selangor MIC members present at the nomination centre and the MIC members present were ferried from nearby Perak and other parts of Selangor to make up the numbers. A smattering of IPF and Makkal Sakthi members were also present amid speculation that the Hulu Selangor MIC, which has 75 branches, is unhappy with the change of candidate and uncooperative. However key supporters of Palanivel who are also diehard BN supporters were present at the nomination centre. The by-election is a four way contest between Kamalanathan and PKR’s Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and two independents. V.S. Chandran, the former Hulu Selangor MIC deputy division chief is contesting because, according to him, he wants to teach MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu a lesson. Asked about his political future, Palanivel said his future is subject to “democratic choices” of the MIC and the Indian community. “I submit to their will,” he said. He also said he was relieved he is not in the contest in this tough battle which can go either way. “I am relieved. If I fought and lost it would be two straight losses for me since 2008. That would be a political disaster,” he said. Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is already capitalising on the furore in the MIC over the candidate choice with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim raising the issue at a ceramah in Air Panas last night. He urged voters to reject MIC/BN because MIC cannot even decide who it wants to field. “How can such a party defend your interest,” Anwar said. PR leaders are expected to play on the “hurt” feeling of some 7,000 MIC members in the constituency to gain a clear advantage.*****

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