Post-Mortem Pilihan Raya Kecil Manek Urai

Manek Urai — The many implications

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is a member of the PAS central working committee and MP of Kuala Selangor.

JULY 20 — The recently-concluded Manek Urai by-election provides me the opportunity to again say it to all that the New Politics is here to stay. While still in its infancy, the New Politics has consistently presented itself to have almost a life and a momentum of its own.

Recognising and better still mastering it immensely enables political practitioners and parties to derive huge electoral benefits from it. Denying and worse still remaining oblivious of its existence subjects political practitioners and parties to its wrath and fury.

Manek Urai despite being remotely rural and nothing close to being an “enlightened constituency and with informed voters”, supposedly the genesis of the New Politics, is a testimony to my above assertion.

Will Pakatan, now largely recognised as the “government in waiting” propelling its way to Putrajaya, suffer the fate of a still-birth for failing to nurture and leverage on the New Politics?

Will Umno/BN, now widely perceived as suffering the pangs of an excruciating terminal cancer, reinvent itself by virtue of its willingness to embrace nay foster the demands of the New Politics?

Again Manek Urai may not be the best constituency to illustrate my thesis. It is not the typical mixed-seat constituency, reflective of the real 60-40 demographic make-up of a truly plural Malaysia. If anything it is aptly a Malay seat in the Malay belt with 99 per cent Malay-Muslim voters.

Be that as it may, this piece argues that if PAS and its Pakatan coalition front choose to remain in denial, we do it at our own peril.

Firstly, the writer is willing to accept that as in all by-elections, PAS and Pakatan have to take on the entire firepower of the BN machinery. But as massive and as gargantuan a task it may be, that has always been the case anyway in all by-elections. Voters expect huge monetary handouts and goodies of all kinds to descend on to the “war zone”, depending on how desperate Umno/BN wants to win the seat.

Hence the argument of money changing hands alone may not suffice to explain the razor-thin majority of a meagre 65 votes won by the PAS candidate from a majority of 1,352 only 16 months ago. Now that they have got the seat back, it’s time for PAS and Pakatan to come to terms with the stark reality of Manek Urai and beyond.

The New Politics demands that political players understand the needs, demands and expectations of voters. With both core voters of Umno and PAS almost cast in stone and split equally, the contending parties should make no mistake that their best bet were the fence-sitter and the young voters. Incidentally these are the real stake-holders of all electoral contests of the future. In Manek Urai they are only Malays. Elsewhere they could also be Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Muruts, Ibans or Dusuns. They indeed, alongside the non-partisan civil-society actors, both passive and active, are the harbingers of the New Politics. Make no mistake in that! They are neither partisan nor are beholden to any political parties and coalition fronts. They have their interest and the nation’s at heart.

The painful question to answer retrospectively is “were we oblivious of their expectations”? Let’s look at the issue of candidacy. While Abe Uji, the now elected representative of PAS, is said to be almost alike to the late Pak Wae Su in so many ways, little did we realise that the votes that the latter used to garner from even the other divide (i.e. BN) were personal to holder and were not transferable.

There was hardly anything exceptional and “sexy” to the Gen-Y about the PAS candidate. PAS hasn’t thought through in offering anything concrete and solid to them. More importantly perhaps is to respond to their quest for employment opportunities in the state.

PAS’s audacious claim that the younger voters were theirs and that 1,300 were coming home to vote was perhaps misplaced.

PAS openly admitted that it only required 800 votes from them to win handsomely. Such claims were rampant and oft-repeated. Perhaps PAS didn’t have much of a choice by way of candidate but not hinging one’s offer and policy articulation with the end target in mind smacks of Old Politics. This is far removed from the knowledge-based New Politics. That mistake shouldn’t recur in the next GE.

PAS has evidently misread the situation. A closer examination of the score sheet revealed that PAS took 50.4 per cent (2,902) of the young voters, while Umno 49.6 per cent. (2,864). The young voters formed 47.8 per cent of the entire voters in the electoral roll.

Umno, another un-savvy player of the New Politics, wasted no time in mooting the notion and blowing its trumpets that the younger generation is back with them. True? Yes and no. Yes, in the case of Manek Urai. But no certainty that it is sustainable. Judging from events unfolding lately, the latest being the debacle of the MACC with the death of a member of their Gen-Y, it could only spell further doom for Umno and the BN.

PAS has to contend that it lost in five of the nine polling stations. Of the four that PAS won and sufficient to cross-subsidise for the deficits in the other five, they were all PAS strongholds dating back to time immemorial as far back as Datuk Asri Muda’s leadership. PAS has evidently lost significant ground in the votes that matter i.e. the fence-sitters that formed 27.6 per cent of the voters. That will really be a bad omen for PAS and the Pakatan if this is to be the trend of future contests.

Did they succumb to the appetising offer of a new bridge? Could they have been tactical in giving their votes to the BN so as to put it in a spot to deliver its promise?

Or was it simply a case of the voters giving PAS a knock on its head, notwithstanding all its valid excuses of being marginalised by the federal government, for failing to deliver meaningful basic amenities commensurate with quality of life required by all?

PAS could no longer deflect all blame to its political nemesis in the era of the New Politics. PAS must buck up and strengthen its support by humbly admitting its shortcomings and quickly deliver all it can. PAS’s religious and moral credentials are unchallengeable, but with its delivery on the physical aspect of development, it will be a death kiss to Umno and the BN.

Will PAS take heed of this admonition of the New Politics of fulfilling the demands and expectation of the rightful owners of democracy i.e. the rakyat and the voters?

It will also be critical to note how PAS and its Pakatan component parties have blissfully shot at each others’ foot, and both feet sometimes. Intra-party squabbling or infighting is no less acute and caustic as to instil a sense of despondency and disdain on the part of Pakatan well-wishers.

PAS particularly has yet to knock the final nail into the coffin of the unity government proposal and send it straight to the grave. PKR has also to learn how to manage dissent amicably within the party. While DAP may be slightly better off in terms of party infighting, the state government of Penang may require a more concerted and collective Pakatan response in addressing some of the state government’s problems.

That may not be pertinent to only Penang but it could very well be said for all states under Pakatan, especially if Pakatan is serious of taking over Putrajaya come the next general election. There has been a clear absence of policy advocacy in countering the many policy prescriptions of the Najib administration. Najib’s 1 Malaysia has neither been intellectually rebutted nor politically responded save in our usual oppositional rhetorics. Najib’s recent penchant for liberalisation equally awaits Pakatan’s policy responses. To the more discerning voters and actors of the New Politics, that is still conspicuously missing.

Manek Urai may have given some comfort to both PAS and Umno for the time being. But none can deny the looming contests that await them. The ability to understand the dynamics of change and master its changing realities and demands seem prerequisites to attaining success in future competitions.

That’s the crux of the New Politics. Whether it be Pakatan or back to Umno/BN come the next GE, the greatest beneficiary must always remain the rakyat and the voters. That will truly be the New Politics when the people-cum-voters become the real Boss of Democracy!

Critical Observation by Bridget Welsh

Gains and losses in Manek Urai
/ Bridget Welsh
Jul 18, 09
8:49am

Kelantan has always been a state for surprises and the slim victory by PAS is an excellent example. Despite PAS claiming a whopping 2,000 majority one hour before the close of polls, when the results were counted, PAS squeaked through with an embarrassing 65 majority.

While some would say, a small victory is still a victory and point to PAS win in Manek Urai as the fifth loss for BN since March 2008, the reality is that this by-election is a serious loss for the opposition.

It shows that the opposition has lost ground in the Malay heartland, the traditional base of political power. It extends the gains Umno won among Malays in the Bukit Gantang election, and provides badly-needed momentum for Najib Abdul Razak’s government.

While the implications of this contest are important at the national level, the campaign itself was very much a local dynamic.

The fight on the ground was fiercely contested as each party attempted to win over the 12,293 voters, often visiting the estimated 1,200 undecided voters more than five times in a 10-day campaign. These voters, along with the estimated 1,700 living outside of the area were decisive in the outcome.

PAS had the advantage in this traditionally ‘safe seat’ and it showed on the ground as the presence of green flags dominated the terrain in this rural constituency. They embraced their local advantage and organised their campaign around Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the party’s spiritual leader and beloved menteri besar.

PAS miscalculates the ground

The sea of green, especially on polling day when supporters poured in, fostered a sense of overconfidence. In contrast, the Umno machinery worked quietly as it established its base in a makeshift tent that provided an air-conditioned oasis for reporters and outsider party workers.

Umno was on a mission to burnish its reputation and this translated into a zeal as it focused on campaigning strategically.

The Umno big guns stayed away in what was perceived to be a losing battle, leaving the diehards to work the ground.

Even on polling day, when leaders left the constituency early, Umno knew it faced an uphill battle and expected defeat despite their campaigning.

The closeness came as a surprise to all sides, especially PAS who severely miscalculated the ground.

The campaign itself lacked the level of intensity of other Umno-PAS contests. Most of the campaigning involved house-to-house networking. The large ceramah featuring Pakatan Rakyat leaders drew more outsiders than locals as the battle was fought through face-to-face interactions rather than oratory skills.

There were two parallel set of issues – those discussed openly and those behind closed doors.

The former included the long-standing (and somewhat) stale contrast between religion and development (manifested over the discussion of the Manek Urai Lama bridge), the Terengganu-transplanted discussion on the failure by the federal government to pay RM1 billion royalty to the state, and perceived corruption on the part of Umno and its credibility in governance.

Umno did not present itself as the secular alternative, but portrayed itself as Islamic, reflecting its increasing efforts to embrace religion as part of its own identity. Relying on regional identity, PAS consistently appealed to the uniqueness of the Kelantanese, stressing the need for the state to continue to be ruled by the Islamic party. None of these issues were new as the lines of support in Kelantan have been long established.

Money helps win the day

The new dimension was the intensity of the behind-the-scenes campaign.

Here Umno focused on promoting Malay rights. Pamphlets attacking Pakatan were quietly circulated – against Selangor exco Elizabeth Wong, the issue of the pig farm in Kedah, land allocation in Perak, and the alleged increase influence of non-Malays.

Umno continued the tactic used in Bukit Gantang of using racial fear to mobilise support. This practice appears to be a defining practice of the Najib-Muhyiddin team.

The contest was about the respective parties, not the candidates. Both parties slated strong candidates who were well-respected, despite the differences in their education levels. They have integrity and are viewed as trustworthy, and both were local successes. As such, the Umno attack on the background of PAS candidate Mohamad Fauzi Abdullah only consolidated existing support rather than alienated voters.

Another key dimension was the use of funds. Manek Urai was not spared the flow of goodies as money was almost thrown at the voters – from the payment of transport allowance to the usual “grant” to households which ranged on average from RM100 to RM500. Polling station results show that these did have an effect.

In 2008, PAS won every polling station but Manjor. This round it lost in five areas. In at least two of these – Temalir and Laloh – Umno concentrated its fund allocation efforts at the micro-level. Gains were also made in Manek Urai Lama where the bridge was promised.

But it is important to note that Umno made gains in every polling station area. The gains were also in among the poorest areas of the constituency.

Livelihoods in this rural constituency have been badly affected by an almost 40 percent drop in rubber prices. The average income level in this area is less than RM1,000 a month.

The funds from the campaign were sorely needed, and many pragmatic voters responded to the offers. They understood that this election would not affect the balance of state or national power, and since it was considered a safe PAS seat, even traditional PAS supporters opted for the added income.

As was shown in Pendang in 2002, by-election patronage can be potent in low-income rural constituencies, even in those with strong PAS machinery on the ground.

First real test for Muhyiddin

One forgets however that the by-election advantage is not just about money, it is also about focus.

The relatively small size of Manek Urai allowed both parties to concentrate their efforts in certain areas. Working through the usual network of local leaders, religious networks, teachers and the local business community, each party honed these connections in order to influence voters. Umno particularly relied on these links and this gave the party a boost.

Manek Urai was comparatively more important for Umno, especially the deputy prime minister. This was the first major test of Muhyiddin Yassin as the campaign coordinator for Umno and he passed favourably. He was thrown to the wolves in Bukit Gantang, and was searching for redemption in Manek Urai.

Muhyiddin was not as hands-on as Najib, but he set the issues in place and pushed the campaign along. Arriving by helicopter regularly, Muhyiddin campaigned hard, changing the tactics systematically as the campaign evolved.

This was one of PAS’s major mistakes. They did not substantively evolve with the campaign. Instead it relied on a few messages from the onset and did not change effectively as the ground shifted. Perhaps blinded by overconfidence or too much faith in their own messages, they lost track of the pulse of the campaign as it changed.

Umno set the campaign momentum, not PAS. This disconnect ultimately contributed to the loss of support for PAS.

Unity talks undermine PAS support

One reason for this disconnect lay with divisions within PAS. It would be a mistake to say that this was a major factor for voters. Kelantanese voters – like most voters in Malaysia – carefully and clearly distinguish between Umno and PAS even if some of their leaders do not. Manek Urai voters did not comprehend the unity talks at all, describing them as illogical and unfeasible.

Nevertheless, the push for Malay unity has severely undermine support for PAS among its traditional supporters. The divisions within PAS provided a distraction and weakened cooperation. Noticeably there was less congeniality among leaders, with some staying away altogether. The PAS Kelantan-Terengganu (non-unity versus unity talks) tensions were real and persist despite claims to the contrary.

There was one interesting dynamic on the ground where these tensions spilled over.

Manek Urai voters made a clear distinction between Tok Guru Nik Aziz and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, opting often to openly leave the latter’s speeches early.

The cool reception toward Hadi Awang reflected symbolically a response to the internal conflict, but also represented the substantive differences in outlook between the leadership of PAS in both states.

Described as “sombong”, extremist and always lecturing, Hadi Awang did not get the same level of adoration of the Kelantanese spiritual leader. This by-election showed that PAS cannot escape the need to resolve the differences within the party and will have to find a balance that reaches the most voters.

With claims that the distraction undermined Pakatan cooperation and knocked PAS off its game, the resolution of internal differences is now more pressing than ever, not just for PAS but for the Pakatan opposition as a whole.

Opposition’s message getting stale

Manek Urai has been described as a turning point for Umno and a wake-up call for the opposition. It is more the latter than the former.

For Umno, the turning point occurred in Perak where the party has started to realise the need for a new way of campaigning on the ground. It has opted for a dangerous racially-loaded path, but simultaneously improved its use of technology, posters and organisational coordination. Manek Urai has indeed given Umno a new shine.

The contest showed that the opposition has relied too long on the messages of March 2008.

Its messaging is getting stale and there is growing ambivalence toward the opposition as a whole as shown by the recent Merdeka Centre poll and confirmed on the ground in Manek Urai.

The reliance of PAS on campaigning around one man, Tok Guru, adds to the party’s vulnerability electorally.

When the votes were counted, Umno won this ‘pearl’ symbolically. Whether Manek Urai will be the first jewel for Umno or a solitary treasure remains to be seen, but, most certainly, it showed PAS and Pakatan that nothing should be taken for granted.

//

BRIDGET WELSH is Associate Professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University. She was recently in the Manek Urai by-election and can be contacted at bwelsh@smu.edu.sg.

PAS Menang di Manek Urai

PAS wins by 65 votes

UPDATED

By Adib Zalkapli

KUALA KRAI, July 14 — PAS has retained the Manek Urai state seat by a wafer-thin margin of 65, or 0.61 per cent of votes cast, despite earlier predictions of a thumping win for the Islamist party.

PAS polled 5,348 against Umno’s 5,283.

Last year the party defeated Barisan Nasional (BN) by 1,352 votes.

The close win showed PAS had just managed to fend off an onslaught from the BN and Umno machinery bent on taking full advantage of schisms in the Islamist party and among its Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partners.

Commenting on the narrow margin, Datuk Husam Musa accused BN of vote buying during the by-election campaign.

“I am very proud of the Manek Urai voters who have shown their strength in resisting BN’s offers,” he told reporters at the counting centre.

He claimed that money was distributed to the voters on the eve of polling day.

On PAS’s defeat in two polling districts – Manek Urai Baru and Lama – where BN has promised to build a new bridge to replace an old single lane bridge, Husam said: “Now BN has to build the bridge.”

He added that the result would not affect Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat’s leadership in the state.

PAS candidate Fauzi Abdullah said he would serve all his constituents equally.

Meanwhile Election Commission chief Tan Sri Aziz Yusof said there was no need for a recount despite the small margin.

“There was no recount, it can only be done if the margin is less than four per cent at the polling stream level, not the total,” Aziz told reporters.

He said BN was welcomed to challenge the results.

Tonight’s results will help strengthen Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat’s position in the Islamist party against rival factions who are keen on working more closely with Umno.

Umno had been hoping for a win today to give BN a boost by winning its first by-election in the peninsula since last year’s general elections.

Bolstered by a recent opinion poll showing an improved approval rating for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Umno had wanted to make the Manek Urai vote a major turning point in its quest to regain lost ground from a Pakatan Rakyat (PR) wracked by major infighting.

Tonight’s win for PAS will give PR some breathing space as it attempts to consolidate after a month which saw the alliance partners openly squabbling with each other over various issues.

————————————————————————————————————————————————-

PAS’s slim victory in Manik Urai

15 Jul 09 : 1.00AM

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Mohd Fauzi Abdullah (with pink tag) and other PAS leaders celebrating their narrow win

TALKING to reporters after PAS candidate Mohd Fauzi Abdullah was officially announced as the victor in the Manik Urai by-election, PAS treasurer and Kuala Krai Member of Parliament Dr Hatta Ramli quoted former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“As Mahathir said, ‘A win is still a win’,” Hatta quipped. “But now we will need to have a post mortem, to find out why we didn’t do better.”

During the campaigning, it was believed that a PAS win in Manik Urai was inevitable, even though the margin of victory was an open question. However, that the Islamist party only scraped through with a mere 65-vote majority has been a crude jolt, especially since it had declared victory earlier in the evening. PAS had expected a majority in excess of 2,000 votes in what was considered its stronghold.

In the end, PAS only gained 5,348 votes. The Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate, Tuan Aziz Tuan Mat, garnered 5,283 votes. The federal ruling coalition took five out of the constituency’s nine polling districts, including the PAS stronghold of Manik Urai Lama.

Positive for BN

“This would be the first positive sign for the BN since March 2008, at least in Peninsular Malaysia,” political analyst Ong Kian Ming tells The Nut Graph.

The BN has lost all six by-elections in Peninsular Malaysia this year, including this one. Manik Urai is the closest they have come to an almost-win.

“It would be interpreted as the first step in which the BN is taking to regain the electoral ground,” Ong adds.

“Umno can claim a moral victory,” Monash University Malaysia political scientist Prof James Chin agrees, adding that the Manik Urai results proved that Umno was, once again, a formidable opponent.

The BN has already begun using the bragging rights they gained in the Manik Urai fight. Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, in his Twitter account, claimed: “BN posts gains in ALL young voter streams. Ergo shift in young voters to BN.”

If the under-40s of Manik Urai did indeed vote for the BN, Ong mulls, “it could be a sign that the BN is slowly regaining some of the youth support it lost in the 2008 general election.”

Good for PR

Ong has previously argued that a PAS setback could be good for the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition.

“It would be a stark reminder to PAS members that there is no escaping the reality that Umno is their main political adversary,” Ong had written.


Mohd Fauzi shaking hands with party supporters

The Manik Urai by-election campaign coalesced around three main issues: oil royalties that Putrajaya allegedly owes Kelantan; a bevy of outraged fishmongers; and the mysterious absence and subsequent appearance of PAS deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa.

The last of the three issues is of the most interest to wider Malaysia, as it really concerns the possibility of a unity government between PAS and Umno.

Nasharuddin has come to represent the faction within PAS that is open to having so-called “unity talks” with arch-rival Umno in the name of Malay-Muslim solidarity. This openness — and Nasharuddin himself — was denounced by PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

Nasharuddin was scarce during the campaigning, with most of the media noting his absence on nomination day. This, along with the absence of posters depicting PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang in the first days of the campaigning, fuelled speculation that there was a growing rift within the party.

“[PAS losing ground] would put a stop to the unity talks and would shake [the PR] out of its complacency,” Ong reiterates.

“More pressure will be put on Nasharuddin and Hadi, since some people would blame the unity talks for contributing to the reduced majority,” he adds.

Divisive

Other analysts disagree. Bridget Welsh, a political scientist attached to Singapore Management University, has been following the Manik Urai race closely. She opines that PAS’s underperformance in the by-election would strengthen those in the Islamist party who would welcome cooperation with Umno.

“It is potentially very divisive. [PAS's setbacks] may be played up by the Terengganu [Umno-friendly] faction as proof that the party needs unity talks with Umno to retain the Malay vote,” Welsh tells The Nut Graph.

The Manik Urai campaign was carried largely on the charisma and leadership of Nik Aziz. The Kelantan menteri besar delivered speeches and visited voters practically every day. His iconic face was plastered on party banners and posters throughout the constituency.

“If there had been a landslide victory, that would have meant a lot of people support Tok Guru (Nik Aziz) and what he stands for, such as a stronger opposition and social justice,” Welsh explains.

Conversely, therefore, the votes against PAS in Manik Urai may be seen as a protest against the Kelantan menteri besar, the moderation he stands for, and his rejection of an alliance with Umno to maintain Malay supremacy.

Welsh also attributes the BN’s gains in Manik Urai to Umno rhetoric that played to Malay Malaysian insecurity. “There was a below-ground campaign that was meant to play the race card, and tell voters that there were things that threatened the position of the Malays,” she says.

For example, late on 13 July 2009, a day before polling, banners had appeared, chiding Nik Aziz for his leading of PAS into an alliance with the DAP, a party that has been stridently opposed to an Islamic state in Malaysia. These presumably BN banners were the final salvo in a long campaign to question PAS’s Islamic credentials because of its ties with the PR.


A BN banner that reads: “Your father (Nik Aziz) loves DAP? Is DAP more Islamic than Umno?”

Also a factor, according to Welsh, was the very fact that the Manik Urai by-election was deemed insignificant.

Chin agrees. “Manik Urai had no effect on national politics. At best, the by-election was a sideshow,” he says, adding that either outcome in the constituency would not have unravelled PAS’s control of the Kelantan government.

“Therefore, there was more space to take for themselves,” Welsh concludes. As the Manik Urai campaign progressed, reports surfaced about “gifts” delivered to families, and returnee voters receiving “transport allowance“.

Moreover, promises of development projects, such as Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin‘s pledge of a bridge between Manik Urai Lama and Manik Urai Baru, appeared to have worked. Both polling districts fell to the BN.


The bridge in question

Weaknesses in PR

In the end, all seem to agree that PAS’s performance in Manik Urai was indicative of weakness in the party — and in the PR coalition as a whole.

“I think as long as the rumours of unity talks do not die down and are not put down strongly by PAS, [especially] Hadi and Nasharuddin, it will remain a thorn in the side of the PR,” Ong says.

“The opposition is losing momentum,” agrees Welsh, who thinks that the opposition has ridden on their surprising gains in the last general election but has failed to redefine themselves for a more significant role in Malaysian politics.

At the same time, she notes: “Umno has changed, to a certain degree”, especially with Datuk Seri Najib Razak as party president and the country’s prime minister.

Hence, the Manik Urai by-election is wake-up call to the opposition. If it is to survive, it cannot rest on its winning streak since March 2008. It must transform itself. But what that transformation will be like remains to be seen.

Pilihan Raya Manek Urai (11)

Khairy Jamaluddin kata BN menang 38 undi?

SPR masih mengira undi rasmi…

Pilihan Raya Kecil Manek Urai (10)

KUALA KRAI, 14 July 2009: Some 76.2% or 9,359 of 12,293 voters have cast their votes in the Manik Urai state by-election as of 1pm, Election Commission (EC) chairperson Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said.

Describing the percentage as “very good”, he said, it was the highest voter turnout in Peninsular Malaysia so far.

He said voter turnout could reach up to 90%, surpassing the EC’s target of 85%.

Polling has been brisk but has been marred by an incident involving supporters of both the Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR). They had milled around the entrance to the Sekolah Kebangsaan Peria polling station, taunting each other until the police was called in to restore calm.

Kelantan police chief Datuk Abd Rahim Hanafi said two party supporters were injured when they were hit by stones thrown by unidentified people at the polling station. Both supporters were sent to Kuala Krai Hospital.

Abdul Aziz was upset that an earlier agreement reached between the EC and the contesting parties that supporters stay at least 50m away from the polling stations was not followed.

“It appears that the EC’s advice and the agreement with the parties were not observed. We will have to keep this in mind in future by-elections and general elections,” he told reporters, after visiting the polling station where the incident took place.

Commenting on BN and PR supporters parading in cars with their respective party flags — an act that is prohibited — Abdul Aziz said the EC would seek the police’s help to overcome this.

Bernama also reported that PAS supporters used nasty and provocative language on Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin when the deputy prime minister visited the polling district in Chuchoh Puteri and five other districts.

Muhyiddin, who is also Umno deputy president, said he was surprised that the PAS supporters could resort to such behaviour when they claimed to be championing Islam.

“It does not matter. Perhaps, I may get more rewards in the hereafter,” he told reporters after a visit to Chuchoh Puteri here.

Muhyiddin said the attitude of the PAS supporters could be driven by political sentiments and their desire to win the by-election at all costs, although it was contrary to Islamic principles.

The by-election is a straight fight between BN’s Tuan Aziz Tuan Mat, 39, of Umno and PR’s Mohd Fauzi Abdullah, 50, of PAS. Neither is registered to vote in Manik Urai.

Polling at the nine polling stations, comprising 27 polling streams, started at 8am. The weather was fine, and most of the voters who came out early were the elderly and the middle-aged.

The by-election is being held following the death of the incumbent from PAS, Ismail Yaacob, on 22 May 2009.

Polling will close at 5pm, after which the counting of votes will begin at the centres. The votes will then be tallied at the Dewan Petra, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Sultan Yahya Petra 1, here. The result is expected to be known as early as 8pm tonight. — Bernama

//

Manek Urai: 84 percent turnout at 3pm
// Jul 14, 09 8:39am

Voting for the Manek Urai by-election kicked off at 8am today with the two contesting candidates – both of whom are not registered voters in the state constituency – visiting polling stations in the area.

Turnout was recorded at 83.89 percent or 10,312 votes as at 3pm, according to the Election Commission (EC).

EC chief Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said the 85 percent target will be passed if the trend continues.

Voter will have nine hours, until 5pm, to cast their votes in this crucial by-election. The result is expected to be known by 8pm.

Umno is fielding its Kuala Krai Youth chief Tuan Aziz Tuan Mat, 39, as its candidate, while PAS is banking on its Kuala Krai treasurer, Mohd Fauzi Abdullah, 50.

Manek Urai has 12,293 voters of whom 99.2 percent are Malays; the others are Chinese and Indians.

The result will signal whether PAS and its revered 78-year-old Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat are able to maintain their grip over this east coast state which the Islamic party has been in power for 19 years.

Much is at stake too for Umno and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is hoping that a victory will help to stem the tide of Pakatan Rakyat, which has won five of six by-elections since last year’s general election.

Nik Aziz, who arrived at the SK Perai polling station 10 minutes earlier than the party’s candidate Mohd Fauzi, had to wait for him.

On arrival at 8.10am, Mohd Fauzi kissed the hand of the menteri besar as a sign of respect as a dozen of supporters shouted “Allahuakhbar”.

Both politicians said they were confident of victory.

“I have met a large proportion of the voters and I think my chances of winning this by-election are as bright as the full moon,” quipped Mohd Fauzi, who was accompanied by his wife.

Traffic jam along main road

Nik Aziz’s announcement yesterday of a state-wide holiday has resulted in a carnival-like atmosphere in the constituency.

Traffic congestion started during the night, with vehicles seen heading here from Kuala Krai. The 27km trip from Kuala Krai to Manek Urai, which normally takes 40-50 minutes, took up to two hours yesterday.

Voters are casting their votes in nine polling centres – SK Temalir, SK Peria, SK Manek Urai, SK Manek Urai Baru, SK Sungai Sok, SK Chuchoh Puteri, SK Lata Rek, SK Kampung Karangan, and SMK Laloh.

The EC’s Abdul Aziz Yusof is hoping for a 85 percent turnout as 90 percent of the voters are local rubber tappers, farmers and fishermen.

According to him, there are 1,300 outstation voters while some political parties have claimed it could be as high as 2,000.

Abdul Aziz said the majority of the outstation voters reside within Kelantan and nearby Pahang. He said he hoped they will return to vote.

For the first time, political parties are not allowed to set up booths near the entrance to the polling centres.

Pilihanraya Kecil Manek Urai (9)

Who does he think he is, King Solomon?’
Hafiz Yatim
Jul 13, 09
3:34pm Malaysiakini.com

While the campaign for the Manek Urai by-election in Kelantan enters its final phase, the fiery orator continues to do what he does best – setting the stage on fire.

Last night’s ceramah in Kampung Sungai Peria was no exception.

This time around, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim trained his guns on Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his offer to build a bridge.

The Umno number two had said that if Barisan Nasional wins tomorrow’s by-election, it would build a bridge to link Manek Urai Lama with Manek Urai Baru, the very next day.

Anwar however is of the opinion that the bridge should extend to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s office, and called on the watchdog to spring into action on this matter.

“Who does Muhyiddin think he is? Is he King Solomon? Making claims and promises that he will build the bridge next day,” he said.

“This is Umno and BN, they are stupid to make such promises. He (Muhyiddin) is not qualified to say that a bridge can be built immediately.

“Let us send a clear message and reject Umno and BN in this by-election,” he told some 5,000 people who attended the talk.

Also present was Kelantan Menteri Besar and PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, and DAP national adviser Lim Kit Siang.

‘Parliament will tremble’

Anwar also praised Nik Aziz as an efficient and responsible leader, who managed to reduce the state’s debt with the federal government.

“In fact, I can verify that Kelantan’s debt is one of the lowest, compared to other states. This is due to the prudent measures adopted by Nik Aziz who consistently paid what they owed.

“Unlike Muhyiddin when he was Johor menteri besar. That state still owes a large sum of money to the federal government and they have not been making their payments as regular as Kelantan,” he said.

Anwar also said that Pakatan Rakyat MPs are united in raising the Kelantan oil royalty issue during the next Dewan Rakyat sitting.

“We would demand Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak who is also the finance minister to explain in the House. We in Pakatan have agreed not to let Najib off the hook.

“If they (the federal government) refuse to answer, we would make Parliament tremble,” he thundered.

On June 17, the Kelantan government placed its claim of RM1 billion in royalty from the federal government for oil extracted 150 miles off Kota Bharu shores.

Last week, its senior exco member Husam Musa claimed that the Kelantan government possessed valid documents to back its claim.

‘Send Najib a clear message’

Meanwhile, DAP’s Lim said Manek Urai voters must send a clear message to Najib in conjunction with his 100th day in office by rejecting Umno and BN.

The veteran politician said the mainstream media has given the premier a glowing report card, including a survey of 1,700 Malaysians of various races.

“I strongly believe (the approval for Najib) is a distorted truth.

“I ask the voters in Manek Urai to send a clear message to Najib and all Malaysians. Let this be an impetus for Pakatan to win the 13th general election with Anwar as prime minister,” he said.

Following a string of by-election defeats under Najib’s reign, the DAP stalwart said BN and Umno is desperate to win in Manek Urai to show that they have not lost Malay support.

Accusing the ruling coalition of being involved in corrupt practices, Lim cited the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone controversy as an example.

Each voter in Manek Urai could have received RM10 million or 10 more schools could have been built for that amount, he said.

Tomorrow’s by-election is a straight fight between Umno and PAS.

Umno has fielded its Kuala Krai Youth chief Tuan Aziz Tuan Mat as its candidate, while PAS is banking on its Kuala Krai treasurer Mohd Fauzi Abdullah.

The seat fell vacant following the death of PAS’ Ismail Yaacob, a five term assemblyperson on May 22.

Manek Urai has 12,293 voters of whom 99.2 percent are Malays, while the remainder are Chinese and Indians.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

Manek Urai: Mungkinkah ada kejutan hari ini?
// Jimadie Shah Othman & Hafiz Yatim
Jul 14, 09
12:05am

Kesesakan di Manek Urai sepanjang tempoh berkempen pilihanraya kecil DUN Manek Urai, sampai ke kemuncaknya hari apabila lebih 12,000 pemilih yang layak, keluar mengundi mulai jam 8 pagi hingga 5 petang ini untuk memilih wakil rakyat mereka – Tuan Aziz Tuan Man dari BN atau Mohd Fauzi Abdullah dari PAS.

Suruhanjaya Pilihanraya (SPR) menjangka keputusan pilihanraya kecil hari ini dapat diketahui seawal jam 8 malam.

Pengerusi SPR Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof berkata SPR tidak

menjangka sebarang masalah untuk mengumumkan keputusan awal berdasarkan kawasan DUN itu yang kecil.

Beliau berkata, sasaran SPR ialah lebih 85 peratus daripada 12,293 pengundi akan mengundi hari ini kerana 90 peratus daripada pengundi adalah petani, penoreh getah, nelayan dan tidak tertakluk kepada hari bekerja.

Manakala Menteri Besar Kelantan, Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat juga telah mengumumkan hari ini sebagai cuti am untuk membolehkan pemilih keluar pengundi.

Sepanjang tempoh lapan hari berkempen, BN dilihat menggunakan isu latar belakang pendidikan dan karier calon PAS yang lebih dikenali sebagai Abe Uji – seorang pemborong ikan.

Manakala calon BN, Tuan Aziz pula merupakan lulusan ijazah pengurusan teknologi daripada Universiti Utara Malaysia.

Isu memperlekehkan latarbelakang Abe Uji itu telah mencetus rasa tidak puas hati di kalangan peraih dan peniaga ikan di Kelantan dengan mengadakan bantahan di Manek Urai Jumaat lalu.

Di samping itu, BN juga menjadikan isu pembangunan sebagai taruhan utamanya, antaranya menjadikan Manek Urai anak emas kerajaan pusat, menjadikannnya sebagai kota agropolitan serta membina beberapa kemudahan baru – termasuk jambatan baru dua lorong di Manek Urai Lama, sekolah kebangsaan di Chuchoh Puteri dan masjid baru di Temalir.

Oleh kerana faktor agama memainkan peranan penting di sini, BN juga cuba menyampaikan mesej kempennya bahawa pembangunan dan kemajuan merupakan sebahagian daripada tuntutan agama, bukan sekadar kejayaan di akhirat semata-mata.

BN turut mengadakan ajlis solat hajat di semua sembilan peti undi di Manik Urai malam tadi di bilik operasi BN di Sungai Sok Luar, Manik Urai, yang disertai kira-kira 200 jemaah, termasuk Timbalan Perdana Menteri Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yang juga timbalan presiden Umno, memohon kemenangan calonnya.

Dalam kempennya, BN juga menggunakan isu kerajaan perpaduan, dengan cuba “melaga-lagakan” antara Timbalan Presiden PAS, Nasharuddin Mat Isa, dengan Mursyidul Amnya, Nik Aziz. Ini tergambar melalui risalah harian mereka Suara Manek Urai yang diterbitkan secara harian.

Sementara PAS pula menyentuh isu penyalahgunaan jentera dan kakitangan kerajaan, antaranya penggunaan helikopter oleh Muhyiddin semasa berkempen. Isu tuntutan royalti minyak Kelantan berjumlah RM1 bilion yang diketengahkan oleh exco kanan kerajaan negeri Datuk Husam Musa, juga dilihat berkesan.

Hari ini, PAS mengeluarkan risalah khas isu royalti tersebut, bertajuk “Fakta Sebenar Minyak Kelantan” yang menggunakan hujah ilmiah dan penuh. Menariknya, risalah itu dicetak menggunakan keseluruhannya dakwat biru, seperti kelaziman dalam cetakan BN.

Jika isu pembangunan menjadi penentu kemenangan calon masing-masing, maka pengundi Manek Urai perlu membuat pilihan antara royalti minyak yang diperjuangkan PAS atau pembangunan insfrastuktur BN yang dijanjikan segera, sejurus selepas kemenangan dicapai esok.

Isu Zon Bebas Pelabuhan Klang (PKFZ) dan rumah mewah bekas menteri besar Selangor Datuk Seri Mohd Khir Toyo, terus dimainkan dari masa ke semasa dalam kempennya.

Ceramah bukan ukuran

Sementara itu, diukur daripada jumlah kehadiran ke ceramah, PAS ternyata dapat mengumpulkan penyokong dengan angka yang jauh melebihi kehadiran di program BN.

Semalam, tiga tunggak utama Pakatan Rakyat – Anwar, penasihat DAP Lim Kit Siang dan Nik Aziz – mengumpulkan hampir 5,000 penyokong dalam ceramah di Sungai Peria. Sementara majlis timbalan perdana menteri petang kelmarin hanya mengumpulkan penyokong kira-kira 200 orang.

Bagaimanapun, kehadiran itu tidak dapat menjadi pengukur sokongan kerana secara tradisinya, tempat PAS berceramah bukan sekadar menjadi tempat penerangan parti tetapi juga pusat perniagaan yang dibanjiri para peniaga kecil.

PAS menang di Manek Urai 10 daripada 12 kali pihanraya umum. Terbaru, mereka hanya tewas pada 2004, ketika Ismail Yaacob atau Pok Su Wel, tidak bertanding.

Sepanjang lima kali bertanding, beliau menang kesemuanya. Kelebihan beliau sehingga kini masih dijadikan taruhan PAS yang menostalgiakan tokoh itu dengan memainkan lagu khas berirama dikir barat dan dokumentari pendek sebagai sanjungan kepadanya sebelum berceramah.

Sebuah jalan di Manek Urai Baru turut dinamakan Jalan Pok Su Wel.

Sumber PAS memberitahu, sehingga hari ini, parti Islam itu selamat dengan 58 peratus sokongan. Sejak semalam, Nik Aziz dan pengarah pilihanraya PAS Kelantan, Fatah Harun menyatakan keyakinan akan menang dalam pilihanraya kecil esok.

Esok jadi tumpuan

Bagaimanapun, mereka berdua kelihatan masih risaukan kehadiran pengundi hantu. Keharian 3,000 anggota polis di kawasan tersebut masih mengundang kecurihgaan berterusan pemimpin PAS.

Sumber Umno pula memberitahu, mereka yakin dengan sokongan lebih 50 peratus setakat ini. Semua mata kini tertumpu ke Manek Urai. Selepas “pengumuman besar” pembinaan jambatan semalam, BN dilihat sudah kehabisan peluru. PAS pula, yang menjanjikan kejutan besarnya hari ini.

Nik Aziz mengumumkan esok sebagai cuti umum di Kelantan bagi memudahkan pemilih keluar pengundi. Tetapi tidak dapat dipastikan sama ada perkara itu merupakan kejutan yang dijanjikan. Jika tidak, BN akan menghadapi masalahnya – serangan terakhir dan muktamad PAS.

Dalam pilihanraya lalu, PAS menang dengan majoriti 1,352 undi. Lantaran itu, semua mata tertumpu kepada hari pengundian esok. Persoalannya apakah PAS mampu mempertahankan kerusi itu dengan majoriti yang selesa.

Ataupun pilihanraya kecil esok akan membawa tuah kepada BN dan menandakan berakhirnya ‘kekecewaannya’ yang sering tewas dalam pilihanraya kecil sejak pilihanraya umum tahun lalu – kecuali di Batang Ai, Sarawak – sepertimana yang diharapkan oleh timbalan perdana menteri.

Pilihan Raya Kecil Manek Urai(8): Kelantan Cuti Umum Esok, 14 Julai 2009

Kelantan gov’t declares public holiday
Jul 13, 09 12:10pm

Kelantan has declared tomorrow a public holiday for all civil servants in the state in view of the Manek Urai by-election.

According to Bernama, Menteri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat said the move was in the interest of the people.

Taking a line similar to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s 1Malaysia slogan, the PAS spiritual leader said: “In the spirit of democracy, we must give priority to the people, and importance to performance.”

Tomorrow’s contest is a straight fight between Barisan Nasional candidate Tuan Aziz Tuan Mat, 39 and PAS’ Mohd Fauzi Abdullah, 50.

The seat fell vacant following the death of PAS assemblyperson Ismail Yaakob on May 22.

[More to follow]

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