Plot to ‘finish off’ Anwar

on Apr 12, 2013

PERMATANG PAUH: Many local Umno chieftains believe that the forthcoming general election would be the best chance to unseat Pakatan Rakyat de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim in his home turf – Permatang Pauh.
They claim that many constituents were unhappy with Anwar’s performance as their representative and realised that the opposition leader was just a “ceramah” man, who preferred to be in Kuala Lumpur.
They claimed that people had realised Anwar had used Permatang Pauh folk as mere pawns for his political chess game to be a national leader.
“Anwar should have left Permatang Pauh to contest elsewhere. He should not again ask Permatang Pauh folk to sacrifice for him. Because of him, Permatang Pauh folk are suffering from lack of business and development,” claimed Umno members.
Whether their claims hold water or not, Umno’s campaign against Anwar would be based on those lines. Umno chieftains claim that with the right candidate and strategies, BN would have the best opportunity to finally “kill off” Anwar’s political career.
They forecast that a defeat for Anwar would break up PKR and make the party redundant. PKR’s demise, they said, would then tear apart Pakatan Rakyat, the three-party coalition which had been gearing up all its machinery to capture Putrajaya.
Umno leaders are perhaps still living in dream world. Even after the 2008 electoral reverses, they still failed to learn and realise that the country’s political landscape is so divided, polarised and hypercritical that any ruling coalition would always face formidable opposition.
Stopping Pakatan’s march to Putrajaya is one thing while ending Anwar’s political career is a different ball game altogether. It would be easier to stop Pakatan, but beating Anwar in his home turf, where he started his political career with a victorious electoral debut in 1982, is a near impossible task.
The Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency is on the world map today because of one man – its favourite son and opposition icon Anwar. Whether one likes him or not, he is the undisputed king of Permatang Pauh. He is always a newsmaker and a hot item for the media.
The affection between Permatang Pauh folk and Anwar is said to be too strong. Even when he was in jail, Permatang Pauh folk remained loyal to his family, voting in Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail in the 1999 and 2004 general elections. She also won in 2008 before resigning to pave the way for a by-election which Anwar won in style.
“Umno would need a miracle to topple Anwar,” said several constituents.
As of June 2012, Permatang Pauh has 70,667 registered voters, a huge leap of 12,208 within four years from 58,459 voters in 2008. Malay voters make up about 70%, Chinese 25% while Indians only six percent.
Permatang Pauh encompasses three state constituencies – Seberang Jaya, Permatang Pasir and Penanti. Seberang Jaya is the most urbanised of the three and is a cosmopolitan centre with industrial workers, professionals and businessmen making up the majority of its population. It has 29,397 voters with 1,200 postal votes.
Permatang Pasir is the rural part of Permatang Pauh with predominantly a Malay-voting population and its main economic activity is rice cultivation with some rubber and palm oil plantations. The constituency has 22,733 voters.
Semi-rural constituency Penanti emulates Permatang Pasir’s agricultural activities mixed with some commercial activities. It has 18,537 registered voters.
Sex videos an outdated strategy
The incumbent assemblymen are Umno’s Arif Shah Omar Shah of Seberang Jaya, PKR state chairman Mansor Othman of Penanti and PAS state commissioner Mohd Salleh Man of Permatang Pasir.
Ironically Permatang Pauh is the only constituency in the country to have three representatives elected in by-elections post-March 2008. Anwar defeated Arif in a by-election in August, 2008 with a thumping majority of 15,671 votes. Mansor and Mohd Salleh won their seats in by-elections in 2009.
The 13th general election would mark the first time Anwar would contest in a general election since 1995. Umno Permatang Pauh, which has about 17,000 members from 95 branches, has urged Najib Tun Razak to field strong candidates in all constituencies to give the party a winnable electoral jigsaw.
Local leaders said that Umno’s chances in Permatang Pauh would be given a tremendous boost if a strong personality challenged Anwar. Although the party has not finalised its candidates, former state PAS leader and corporate figure Mazlan Ismail has been tipped as the favourite to be given the task to unseat Anwar.
Local Umno leaders hope that Mazlan candidature can woo PAS supporters in the area. But whether such optimism would materialise remains to be seen because for PAS, Umno is always its sworn enemy.
It seems there will be no massive swing of Malay and Indian voters for Pakatan, unlike 2008. Umno claims that Malay and Indian voters were flocking back to BN, and with party members being more united, it had more than a fighting chance to upset Anwar and company.
Umno, of course, with blogger Papagomo entering into the fray, will embark on a massive “sex video” campaign to tarnish Anwar’s image, but observers said it would not work – as it had never worked since 1998.
“It’s an outdated strategy. How can we use military strategy and weaponry of World War I and hope to win in World War III? Umno should be more realistic and practical,” said a businessman and Umno member.
Umno will also use the “Allah in Bible” controversy sparked by DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng against Anwar but that too, is unlikely to make an impact with the electorate.
One must expect the battle-hardened Anwar and PKR will be ever ready to face-off Umno’s strongest challenge in Permatang Pauh.
It’s not just another electoral duel. It’s a political battle for bragging rights, pride and dignity. Anwar must win at all costs.
“Never mind if Pakatan fails to win Putrajaya. But the Permatang Pauh battlefield must be won. Pakatan and PKR leaders, members and supporters know Anwar must not lose,” said an observer.
Ground study makes it difficult to envisage Permatang Pauh folk abandoning Anwar, especially when he is leading his troops and many Malaysians for a change of guards in Putrajaya. For many, Anwar is still a symbol of their pride, an icon of reform.
Many will not trade him for development promises ala Umno. It’s too premature to make a bold prediction, weighing all pros and cons, Anwar should be able to win, maybe with a reduced majority. Nomination day for the general election is Saturday, April 20. Polling is on Sunday, May 5.




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