KUALA KRAI, May 30 — The Barisan Nasional (BN) expects a stiff contest in the Manek Urai state by-election next month but opposition parties should not underestimate the coalition’s strength, Kelantan Umno chief Datuk Mustapa Mohamad said.
Mustapa, who is the BN election director for the by-election, said that being the underdog in the by-election would not jeopardise the determination of BN and Umno in winning the seat.
“We know they (the opposition) won the seat before, which makes us the underdog, but we will work very hard to get more votes and ensure a win for the BN. The BN is capable of giving them a tough fight in this by-election,” he told reporters after a meeting with the BN election machinery in Manek Urai at Sekolah Kebangsaan Manik Urai last night.
Asked to comment on the opposition victory in previous by-elections, which was said to have been due to internal problems in the BN and not the strength of the opposition, Mustapa said the BN’s focus now was to win in Manek Urai.
“The important thing now is that we have the spirit to unite. What is important is that we want to change the fate of the people here for the better. The small problems that we have should be set aside because we want to win here. We will ensure that we work as a strong team highly regarded by our rivals,” he added.
On the choice of candidate, he said, it would be decided by the party leadership.
“A win in Manek Urai is very crucial to inject vigour into Umno and the BN. Indeed, we did badly in the last general election but we are confident the people here will give us a chance to prove that the BN can change their lives,” he added.
Mustapa, who is International Trade and Industry Minister, said Kelantan Umno deputy chairman Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin and Kuala Krai Umno division chief Datuk Ramzi Abdul Rahman had been appointed by-election deputy directors.
The by-election is being held following the death of incumbent state assemblyman Ismail Yaacob of a heart attack on May 22.
Ismail, one of the longest-serving PAS elected representatives in the state, first won the seat in the 1985 general election and retained it until the 2004 general election when BN’s Zulkepli Omar captured it by a 53-vote majority, defeating Mohd Zamzuri Mat Lazim of PAS.
Ismail contested the seat again in the general election last year and defeated Mohamed Zulkifli Omar of the BN with a majority of 1,352 votes.
The Election Commission has set July 6 for nomination and July 14 for polling. — Bernama
Don’t underestimate BN in Manek Urai, says Mustapa