November 15, 2022
KUANTAN – Malaysia’s political parties have swept into enemy territory to hold rallies, launching onslaughts in their rivals’ fortresses to gain votes in what is shaping up to be a tight race ahead of the Nov 19 General Election.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) have been attacking each other’s strongholds, as well as the traditional Barisan Nasional (BN) bastion of Pahang as the first week of campaigning came to an end.
As part of a nationwide tour, opposition leader Anwar on Friday swooped in on the east coast states of Terengganu, ruled by PN ally Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), and Pahang, with a whirlwind one-day campaign that saw hundreds of supporters turning up at two venues in Kuantan.
Mr Anwar said PH, which comprises his Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), PAS splinter party Amanah, and the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP), was going all out and campaigning in the rain, in order to gain a majority in the 222-seat Parliament and form the next government.
“We are working very hard to win the majority this time. We are approaching 90 seats (that PH will win). We want at least 112 seats on Nov 19,” he said in Kuantan, to cheers from the audience.
About 100 people attended his rally earlier in a carpark in Kuala Nerus, near the state capital of Kuala Terengganu after he went to a mosque for Friday prayers.
Legal executive Aliah Abdullah, 31, attended one of Mr Anwar’s rallies in Kuantan and said that Mr Anwar was her choice for prime minister.
“I believe Anwar can bring changes and reform policies for a new Malaysia. He is the most credible option. I don’t trust the others, and we have already seen how the other coalitions have led the country. This is the time for us to see what Anwar can bring to the table,” she told The Straits Times.
In Pahang, PN is also posing a threat to BN, fielding candidates in all 14 parliamentary seats and 42 state seats. A recent survey shows that 35 per cent of Malays prefer PN to govern the country.
Mr Muhyiddin attracted a crowd of around 300 people when he visited a Federal Land Development Authority land settlement in Kuantan on Thursday.
“People seem to be yearning for change, and I believe they want a government which is concerned and responsible for their well-being,” the former premier was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times daily.
While the Umno-led BN won the recent state elections of Melaka and Johor, support was also seen to rise for PN, whose biggest members are Mr Muhyiddin’s Bersatu and PAS, said head of research at think-tank Ilham Centre, Dr Yusri Ibrahim.
“At the time, I had stated that if this momentum continued, PN will put up a strong challenge in the 15th General Election in Malay-Muslim areas, particularly in parts of Pahang, Selangor, Perak and Perlis,” he told ST, adding that PAS has strong grassroots support in Pahang.
“If Bersatu can increase the momentum of support, PN can provide stiff competition in Pahang seats such as Indera Mahkota, Paya Besar, Kuantan, Kuala Krau, Maran and Temerloh,” he told ST.
He noted that many Malay swing voters in the 2018 General Election did not vote for BN. “Some of them are still not supporting BN, but they are also not in favour of voting for PH. The other choice is PN.”
He explained that while Malay voters here may be satisfied with PH’s performance, they would tend to distance themselves from PH due to concerns over DAP being a coalition member.
PN has also entered the PH stronghold of Selangor in a bid to woo first-time young voters, seen as kingmakers in this election.
At a rain-soaked rally in Banting on Tuesday night attended by about 300 people, PAS president Hadi Awang noted the DAP’s strategy of fielding Malays as candidates, but questioned what the Chinese-dominated party could do for Malays.
“We must unite against PH. We ask Umno people to rest for a while. Support us, let us take over first and see how we will do,” he declared.
PN lawmaker and caretaker International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali, who is defending his Gombak seat in Selangor, used the same rally to criticise his former party PKR and Mr Anwar, its president.
Datuk Seri Azmin claimed that prominent candidates had been dropped from PKR’s list for being vocal about the party’s shortcomings and that PKR is led by a “dictator”. He did not mention names, but is believed to have been referring to Mr Anwar.
“Unfortunately, PKR is led by a dictator, so you can’t even express your concerns and criticism in the party… How is someone like this going to lead the country? If you can’t manage your own small party, how do you expect the public to have confidence in you to lead the country?” he said, rousing the crowd at the two-hour rally.
A trader who was selling drinks at the rally and who wanted to be known only as Zapril, said his choice of candidate is based on personal merits and not party affiliation.
“The older generation like my father will blindly support the party. But now, we are examining the candidates on personal merits, regardless of what political party they are affiliated with,” he said.