By-elections will be a referendum on key issues
The simultaneous by-elections in the Bukit Gantang parliamentary constituency in Perak and Bukit Selambau state seat in Kedah will be, in a way, a referendum on various contentious issues, especially on the Perak political crisis.
DAP’s Bukit Bendera Member of Parliament Liew Chin Tong said the by-elections would also be an appraisal of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s credibility and popularity to become the country’s sixth prime minister.
Both by-elections will be held simultaneously on April 7, while the nominations will be on March 29, giving a nine-day campaign period for contestants to reach out to the voters.
Nominations come a day after the Umno general assembly which will be held from March 24 to 28, where Najib is scheduled to assume the Umno presidency and premiership from outgoing incumbent Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Liew said the by-elections, especially in Bukit Gantang, would also revealed whether the electorates especially the Malays backed Barisan Nasional’s usurpation of power in Perak from Pakatan Rakyat’s grasp.
Although MIC is highly likely to contest Bukit Selambau on BN ticket, he said Najib and Umno would be the parties under the spotlight in Kedah.
“Najib will be the fresh new premier while Umno has always been the big brother of the coalition,” he said.
Since Najib played an active part in the silver state’s coup d’etat, the DAP parliamentarian believes the Bukit Gantang results would generally be reflective of the Perak people’s sentiments on the designated premier’s credibility.
Although Pakatan de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim’s much lauded but failed Sept 16 federal coup d’etat would be played by BN as a major electoral issue, Liew believes that it would not hamper Pakatan chances of winning both seats.
Be wary of smear campaigns
“I think Anwar’s failed attempt to assume federal powers through constitutional means would only upset the elite votes, not the grassroots.
“The undercurrent groundswell is that many were upset that Sept 16 did not happen, which means they wanted a change,” said Liew.
Pointing out a week was a long time in politics, he cautioned that since the polling dates are nearly two months away, “anything could happen between now and then”.
“Najib and Umno are desperate to win both seats to regain their credibility and lost electoral ground.
“Umno will use all dirty tactics to clinch victory at all costs,” he said, warning Pakatan leaders to be wary about smear campaigns in the run-up to the by-elections.
Liew said albeit some contentious local issues, both by-elections would be dominated and decided by national issues, many of which were outstanding since the last March general election.
Among the issues are reforms to judiciary, electoral process and police, corruption, selective prosecution, crime rates, economic growth, prices of goods, accountability, transparency and competency of BN government.
“All issues were raised during the last general election, but until today were not resolved by the Putrajaya administration,” he said.
The by-elections were called after PAS parliamentarian for Bukit Gantang, Roslan Shaharum, died of heart attack and Bukit Selambau assemblyperson V Arumugam from PKR resigned early this month.
The Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau seats have 55,562 and 35,140 voters respectively.
Liew hopes for straight fights between BN and Pakatan in both by-elections to avoid confusion among voters.
“Pakatan will have a better chance of winning in straight fights,” he summed up.