YAN, Nov 4 — Barisan Nasional (BN) and PAS wrapped up their campaign last night in a bitter political battle to wrest control of the Sungai Limau state seat in Kedah which has been a PAS bastion since 1995.
PAS has held the seat for five terms with its majority dwindling to 2,774 in the May 5 general election compared to 2008 when the party won with a 3,000-plus majority.
At stake in the by-election today is new Mentri Besar Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir’s image and credibility in particular, and Kedahans’ acceptance of his leadership in general.
Mukhriz had failed in his attempt to win an Umno vice-president’s slot during the party polls on October 19, and this by-election is another test of his leadership capability in the state.
If Mukhriz can at the very least reduce PAS’s majority even further, then it is evident he has penetrated into PAS territory. After all, the political battle in Sungai Limau is not about anything but winning the 27,722 voters’ minds and hearts.
For PAS, it is a matter of the party’s image among its Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partners, the late Tan Sri Azizan Razak’s influence, and party state commissioner Datuk Mahfuz Omar’s image and credibility in the run-up to the party elections scheduled for November 22.
If PAS fails to increase its majority, then it is obvious the party’s influence, and that of Azizan, are dwindling, especially among the youth.
PAS began its campaign lightly with its machinery seemingly disorganised and in a state of disarray. Perhaps it was confident the stronghold was easy to defend.
A week after nominations, the party election machinery went into full swing. Posters and banners were put up all over the constituency, leaving no space untouched.
The party’s ceramah held day and night during the 12 days of campaigning received lukewarm response, with attendance hardly reaching 100 even until last night.
The only time the turnout ballooned was when Parti Keadilan Rakyat de facto chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang were present on Friday and Saturday night.
PAS, Anwar and Lim raised national issues such as the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) and corruption as well as government wastage.
For BN, the campaign trail has been rapid and aggressive with ceramah held day and night as well as sports events for the youngsters at various venues.
Besides the presence of Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the by-election director, several federal ministers helped out in the campaign.
BN has been raising development and bread-and-butter issues which should actually work but then again, since the residents have been living under PAS rule the past five terms, it may have been quite a difficult task for BN campaigners to change their minds and hearts.
At the final monitoring and observation, PAS seems to be leading with BN trailing close. Observers say PAS may win with a majority of fewer than 1,000 votes and if BN wins, the majority would be around 300 votes.