Kelantan by-election a test for opposition alliance

Kelantan by-election a test for opposition alliance

MALAYSIA- Nomination for a by-election in Kelantan has kicked off and the poll will likely test whether the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition can still be a winning combination, despite a bitter power struggle in Selangor that has dragged on for months.

The Pengkalan Kubor state seat will see a three-way contest between Parti Islam SeMalaysia's (PAS) grassroots leader Wan Rosdi Wan Ibrahim, ruling party Umno's Islamic preacher Mat Razi Mat Ail and independent candidate Izat Bukhary Ismail Bukhary, who is trying his luck again despite garnering just 65 votes the last time round in this town, which is situated along the Thai border.

With Kelantan being a PAS stronghold, allowing the Islamic party to contest the polls is seen as a smart move, especially after PR member Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) 2013 candidate Saharun Ibrahim complained at the national party congress last month that his campaign was sabotaged by allies.

Top leaders of PKR and PR member Democratic Action Party (DAP) stayed away during yesterday's nomination process, with one telling The Sunday Times that it is "a PAS by-election" instead of a PR one.

But if some of them are losing patience with their inconsistent partner, they may yet be reminded of the value of keeping the faith - if PAS can snatch the seat that Umno has held for three terms.

The by-election was called following the death of three-term Kelantan Umno assemblyman, Datuk Noor Zahidi Omar, in Guangzhou, China, last month. In last year's general election, Mr Noor Zahidi defeated PKR's Mr Saharun by 1,736 votes.

Mr Saharun's latest allegation on campaign sabotage last year came just a week after PAS finally withdrew its support for Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim, who was sacked by PKR for defying orders to step aside and make way for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's wife and PKR president, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

In the past fortnight, the feud has re-escalated. PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang nominated candidates from his own party to head Selangor, ignoring both the coalition's understanding that the Menteri Besar should be from PKR and his own party leadership's decision to propose Datuk Seri Wan Azizah and her deputy Azmin Ali.

PKR youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad revealed yesterday that in a meeting with Datuk Seri Hadi last Friday, the PAS president had said that the best solution to the Selangor impasse would be to maintain Tan Sri Khalid as Menteri Besar.

"It is clear there is no chemistry left between Hadi and Anwar," Mr Ibrahim Suffian, who heads independent opinion researcher Merdeka Centre, told The Sunday Times.

With PAS in conflict with PKR and internally, Mr Hadi's unilateral actions will certainly be a key talking point at the Islamic party's national congress on Thursday, while the Pengkalan Kubor vote on Sept 25 might be relegated to an afterthought, political watchers said.

This article was first published on Sep 14, 2014.
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