A well-known unknown

By Wan Hamidi Hamid
JAN 2 — Only those who live outside Terengganu will say Pas’s Abdul Wahid Endut is an unknown.
The people of Kuala Terengganu are especially familiar with this five-term state assemblyman — who’s only 52 years old — and who has been making a name for himself in the state since the late 1980s.

During the opposition’s first serious attempt to unseat the Barisan Nasional in 1990, he contested and won the Wakaf Mempelam state seat, and has retained it till today.
As a first-time contender in 1990, Abdul Wahid was the Pas candidate during the time when former Umno leaders formed Semangat 46 to work together with Pas and DAP to topple (Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s BN. Although the attempt only managed to secure Kelantan and failed nationally, it gave people hope that BN could be seriously challenged.
Almost a decade later, after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sacked from the government and subsequently jailed following his Reformasi movement, Abdul Wahid again secured his seat although there was no nationwide political tsunami.
The Reformasi-era elections in 1999 however rewarded Pas with Terengganu, and Abdul Wahid, a fisheries and marine science graduate, who was then a three-term assemblyman, was appointed a state exco member.
Although Pas failed to repeat its success in 2004, Abdul Wahid once again retained his seat. He did it again in the March 8 general election last year, defending his state seat comfortably.
It seems that the choice of Abdul Wahid for the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat is based on his winnability factor. He is seen as the best choice against BN’s Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh, 46, who is also a well-known figure in the constituency.
With Pas controlling three of the four state seats in the parliamentary constituency, and losing the Kuala Terengganu seat some 10 months ago with a small majority, the Islamist party has a good chance of wresting the seat from BN — at least on paper.
The choice of Abdul Wahid, currently the state Pas treasurer, as the candidate is also another indication that Pas is serious about winning, despite earlier talk about the possibility of the party giving it away to Umno-BN.
What happened last year was that Pas’s secret talks with Umno after the general election, in what many saw as an attempt by Umno to bring Pas to its side, were exposed in the media. It sent a distressing signal to Pas’s partners in Pakatan Rakyat — DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
Many Pakatan supporters could not believe that Pas would rather be with its sworn enemy. When Pas veteran Datuk Mustafa Ali was identified as the culprit, it caused a crack within the federal opposition; even among Pas leaders and members.
Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang however repeatedly expressed the party’s commitment to Pakatan Rakyat. Although this did not really allay fears among Pakatan leaders, it’s the only assurance PKR and DAP leaders can hold on to.
Abdul Wahid is known as Mustafa’s protégé and this does not bode well with those who doubt the Pas veteran’s current political agenda.
However, with the strong emphasis on the need to win the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary constituency, it can be expected that the Pas leadership will eventually manage to convince their Pakatan partners of their loyalty.
The recent fear that Mustafa, who has a strong grip on the party in Terengganu, would try to throw away the by-election now seems a bit ridiculous.
It is also expected that opposition leader Anwar will campaign in this by-election while DAP will send some top guns to help out too, especially in wooing 11 per cent of the voters — the Chinese — in the constituency.
When Pas lost the seat in the last general election, some people claimed that it was due to the fact that candidate Mohamed Sabu — a Penang-born political journeyman who had served in Kelantan and Kedah — was an outsider.
This time Terengganu Pas is banking on its local boy to make a difference.
With the help of Pakatan partners as well as their two assemblymen — Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi of Batu Burok and Tengku Datuk Hassan Tengku Omar of Ladang — Abdul Wahid can expect to give his rival Wan Ahmad Farid a run for the money.
Of course, there will be a lot of political gossip about disunity within Terengganu Pas over the choice of Abdul Wahid but the state Umno too has its share of similar problems.
Nomination day is Tuesday and polling is on Jan 17.