By-election loss deals Mukhriz Mahathir another blow

Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir surprised his own camp during the by-election campaign in the state last week when he decided to spend the night in a fisherman's hut.

Datuk Mukhriz, joined by other campaign staff, slept on the floor in the small living room of Mr Bahari Awang's hut in Kampung Seberang Tandop, a village near the Malacca Strait.

"By doing this, we can learn about their problems, and prove the government's seriousness to solve their problems. I think this is an effective move for the purpose," he told reporters.

Still, Mr Mukhriz's Barisan Nasional candidate from Umno failed to win the Sungai Limau constituency.

The loss is another blow to him, coming just two weeks after he failed to secure one of the three coveted vice-president posts in Umno's internal polls.

Indeed, some also questioned whether the result reflected the waning influence of his father Mahathir Mohamad, a Kedah native who was prime minister for 22 years, Malaysia's longest serving leader. Tun Dr Mahathir, 88, also campaigned for the BN candidate.

Opposition veteran Lim Kit Siang went so far as to say in his blog that "Mahathirism" was on its last legs.

Parti Islam SeMalaysia's (PAS) candidate won the Sungai Limau seat on Monday with a reduced majority of 1,084 votes, 1,690 fewer than what the party secured in the May general election.

BN was not really expected to wrest the PAS stronghold that was held for five terms by the late Tan Sri Azizan Razak, the former PAS chief minister of Kedah whose death in September triggered the by-election.

"This is a PAS area and there would be sympathy votes for the late menteri besar. So it was tough for BN to win," said political analyst Azman Ujang, Bernama news agency's former editor-in-chief.

Some analysts saw a silver lining despite the loss for the 49-year-old Mr Mukhriz, saying he managed to bring Kedah Umno together during the campaign period barely five months after he was appointed menteri besar.

There was a lot of talk of factional differences within the state's Umno in the run-up to the general election.

BN won the 10 of the 19 voting centres in the constituency, showing the ruling coalition did not do too badly, said Umno's president, Prime Minister Najib Razak. He also noted an uptick in Chinese support based on an analysis of the results.

Sungai Limau is preponderantly a Malay constituency. They make up 93 per cent of its 27,222 voters with Chinese voters accounting for only 6 per cent of the electoral roll.

"The result was largely due to good teamwork and the national and state machinery have to work together as a team," said Datuk Seri Najib.


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