Permatang Pauh Goes To Polls Tomorrow

BUKIT MERTAJAM, Aug 25 (Bernama) — The people of Permatang Pauh will come out to vote again Tuesday, this time in a by-election for the parliamentary seat after it was left vacant by the candidate they voted in five months ago in the March 8 general election.
The stiff contest is still between Barisan Nasional (BN) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) but the candidates this time are different, where BN is fielding community-friendly, multi-lingual Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah, 51, while Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, 61, is standing for PKR.
The latter’s wife, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail gave up the seat on July 31 to enable him to contest it in a by-election. In the March 8 general election, Dr Wan Azizah defeated BN’s Datuk Pirdaus Ismail with a 13,398-vote majority.
The question is who will the 58,459 registered voters choose to represent them as the outcome will also determine how far Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, could revive his political career after 10 years being out of Parliament.
But for PKR, the contest is not just for Anwar to return to Parliament and become the opposition leader, as they believe it will also open the door for Anwar to fulfil his dream of becoming Malaysia’s next prime minister.
PKR which was initially confident of winning the seat easily, has now acknowledged the serious and relentless effort of the BN by-election machinery in appealing to the voters to use rationale and wisdom in making their decision.
The BN machinery admitted that being the underdogs, they had a very heavy task, especially when development is no longer an issue which could win over most of the voters who have been entrenched in their views.
A group of Universiti Utara Malaysia lecturers studying mainstream media coverage of the situation in Permatang Pauh, felt that the tactic of appealing to voters by using the development issue was no longer effective, including among Chinese voters who want a more robust economy.
One of the researchers, Azhar Kassim, said racial sentiments were evidently used to fish for votes from the three main communities, with the Malays forming 65 percent of the voters, Chinese 25 percent and Indians six percent.
They also observed the tendency of certain quarters to use mosques for their political forums, for instance, the Bandar Perda mosque, near here, where some speakers last night touched on the swearing by Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan with regard to the sodomy allegation against Anwar.
The BN by-election machinery’s confidence, on the other hand, appears to be increasing that victory could be on their side, especially with encouraging words like “nothing is impossible” coming from Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
DAP which is helping Anwar’s campaign, has also acknowledged the BN machinery’s high level of commitment, prompting one of its leaders to say that it would be difficult for Anwar to win with a big majority.
The Penang government’s decision to declare polling day as a public holiday for the state is seen as politically motivated to ensure Anwar wins tomorrow.
But the forecast that there will be rain tomorrow may affect voter turn-out.
Meanwhile, police have reminded the thousands of party supporters from outside the state not to come into Permatang Pauh on Tueday to avoid congestion as the roads there are narrow.
Its Permatang Pauh by-election media relations officer Supt Shaharon Anuar Abdul Latif said the number of police personnel to ensure security in the area tomorrow would be increased from the 6,000 deployed earlier.
For the past 10 days, the by-election campaign had been marred by several undesirable incidents like fighting, assault on two media photographers, a bomb threat and death threats to at least two individuals over some revelations in their political speeches.
The Election Commission expects the results of the by-election to be known by 10pm Tuesday.