23 July 2013

Aggressive BN can edge out PAS' 'local boy'

ANALYSIS KUALA BESUT With only one day to polling day, BN seems poised to retain Kuala Besut with a larger majority by mobilising an aggressive and seemingly effective election campaign.

In the last general election, the late Dr A Rahman Mokthar of BN won the constituency with the overall majority of 2,434 votes over PAS' Napisah Ismail.

Of the eight polling districts that make up the state constituency, five have been BN-held since 2004, namely - Seberang Barat, Seberang Barat Luar, Kampung Nail, Tok Saboh, and Pulau Perhentian.

Despite that, BN's candidate Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Abdul Rahman and BN federal ministers have been holding frequent meet-the-people programmes in these five constituencies where they have already won.

This is true even in Seberang Barat Luar and Tok Saboh where its majority is highest - 756 votes and 617 votes respectively.

They have held programmes for the community and have gone house-to-house to galvanise support for Tengku Zaihan.

With the ground-breaking ceremony of the RM10.35 million Kampung Lay Out affordable housing block and a RM28 million secondary school, both in Tok Saboh, this is likely to further solidify BN's support in its existing holdouts.

BN swift to respond to issues

As for issues raised by PAS related to land, infrastructure, and its campaign theme '16:16 New Terengganu', referring to a possible hung assembly should PAS win the seat, these do not seem to be gaining traction from the locals and are not given much coverage in mainstream media.

Instead, BN has been swift to respond to these issues by promising million-ringgit projects such as the Sungai Besut estuary dredging project and the international tourism gateway project.

At the same time, BN has been actively campaigning in PAS strongholds of Kampung Nangka, Kampung Bharu, and Bukit Puteri.

Special attention has been given to Bukit Puteri, where PAS won by only 90 votes out of 2,133 eligible voters. BN hopes to win this polling district by about 100 votes.

Checks by Media found no less than 10 programmes between voters there and ministers over the past two weeks of campaigning, including breaking fast and meet-and-greet sessions.

However, since polling day is held on a work day, this would hamper BN's ability to gain as many votes as it otherwise probably would.

In addition, PAS has been working hard to defend the polling districts that it had won on May 5, such as Kampung Nangka where it won by a majority of 79 votes.

PAS is also expected to wrest control of the Kampung Bharu polling district where it had lost by just 61 votes.

This is because PAS' candidate Azlan Yusof is born there and his relatives who had previously backed BN are said to have pledged support for him. This would reduce BN's overall winnings.

Kampung Bharu is also situated in between Kampung Nangka and Bukit Puteri polling districts, so it is conceivable that Azlan's approachable personality could influence voters in these areas.

"Our defeat by 61 votes in Kampung Bharu will be balanced and (the feedback) is positive. In other areas, overall there has been an increase of support.

"We can reduce the margin of our losses and gain support in other areas," PAS central election direct Dr Hatta Ramli said when met by Media on Sunday.

Votes for PAS, votes for Che Long

It is also conceivable that the support could spill beyond the three polling districts based on the body language of BN supporters who know Azlan, who is also affectionately known as 'Che Long'.

"Their support is spontaneous. So now, we have two category of votes. One votes for PAS while the other votes for Che Long," said Azlan's campaign manager Hanafiah Mat, who has been accompanying him throughout his campaigning.

Voters regardless of political inclination and occupation seem to be comfortable around Azlan, who lives in the area and is already known as a philanthropist.

"Praise to God that I am healthy and there are no problems in my campaigning. The people respond positively to me (especially in BN strongholds)," he told Media yesterday.

PAS is also capitalising on Azlan's influence as much as it can to sway voters, especially BN supporters who know the PAS Besut treasurer.

The Islamist party had changed it campaign strategy half-way through the campaigning period by increasing the number of "Vote for Che Long" banners and posters compared those that say "Vote for PAS".

In addition, the party also held "Let's meet Che Long" carnivals on July 19 and 20, further capitalising on his popularity.

Therefore, last-minute campaigning is vital for both sides, with BN still vying for its goal of winning the by-election by 4,000 votes.

As for PAS, the question is whether it can reduce BN's majority just less than three months after the general election. Kuala Besut decides tomorrow.


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