Hulu Selangor sees a slow start to PAS campaign

By Adib Zalkapli (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 — Unlike other by-elections, the PAS machinery has been slow to make its presence felt in Hulu Selangor, giving rise to the speculation that it was unhappy with Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s candidacy for Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
Umno campaigners have seized on PAS’ absence as proof of Zaid’s rejection by the Islamist party, but PAS officials claim otherwise, pointing to several programmes that include Selangor PAS chief, Datuk Hasan Ali, who is a conservative unlike the more liberal Zaid.
It is understood that Hasan has largely been present in the constituency in his capacity as the state executive councillor in charge of Islamic affairs. Last night, he moderated a low-key forum on Islamic leadership at a mosque in Hulu Bernam, near the Perak border.
“I don’t think PAS will be interested to campaign for Zaid, he does not reflect the values that PAS is trying to promote, but you can never tell, PAS can always change their stand,” said Kelantan Opposition Leader Datuk Alwi Che Ahmad.
The Kok Lanas assemblyman has been in Hulu Selangor since early this week to campaign against his fellow Kelantanese.
“PAS and Zaid are like chicken and duck, they cannot understand each other,” Alwi told The Malaysian Insider.
PAS grassroots are said to be uneasy with Zaid’s past, when he was the Kota Bharu Umno chief. He once sued the PAS-led Kelantan and Terengganu governments for attempting to enact Islamic criminal laws in 2002.
The suit was subsequently withdrawn on the instructions of Umno leadership, for fear of losing Malay support.
Several blogs, including some that are run by PAS officials, have highlighted their concern over Zaid’s background.
“We will definitely exploit this in our campaign. Zaid Ibrahim sued [the] PAS government, so how can he be associated with PAS now?” said Hulu Selangor Umno division committee member, Datuk Zainal Abidin Sakom.
But Selangor PAS leaders denied that they were not taking the April 25 election seriously or were unhappy with PKR’s choice of candidate.
“It is still too early in terms of doing real campaigning, and this time we are not leading the campaign, all activities will be co-ordinated by PKR, we are just providing support,” said Selangor PAS secretary Khairuddin Othman.
“And we have never questioned the candidate, even in past by-elections we didn’t question,” he told The Malaysian Insider when asked about the selection of Zaid as the candidate.
Since Election 2008, PAS has participated in five by-elections and provided crucial support for PKR in the remaining four elections, except for Batang Ai in Sarawak where the Islamic party has no presence.
Another Selangor PAS leader, Izham Hashim, gave his assurance that the party workers remain committed to ensuring a PR victory.
“We are already there, we moved into the society, there is no problem with the candidate,” said Izham.
“I think we have thrashed out the issue with him, he only made the challenge because of the constitution,” he said referring to Zaid’s suit.
The Hulu Selangor by-election was called following the death of PKR’s Datuk Dr Zainal Abidin Ahmad last month. Nomination is set for April 17 while polling is on April 25.