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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Battle in Malay, mixed areas - 4 seats to watch

GE WATCH While Penang Umno aims to win 14 out of 15 seats it is contesting in the coming polls, it has to battle to retain four of its marginal seats.

These seats are Sungai Acheh (250), Pulau Betong (294), Teluk Bahang (465) and Seberang Jaya (majority 533) - all of which were won by small margins by Umno against PKR in 2008.

Not surprisingly, they all fall under parliamentary seats won by PKR leaders - Anwar Ibrahim (Permatang Pauh), Yusmadi Yusof (Balik Pulau) and Tan Tee Beng (Nibong Tebal), who later quit to become an independent.

Although PKR must also keep an eye on one of its marginal seats -Batu Uban which it won with 611 votes against Gerakan - the party won comfortably by more than 1,000 votes in 11 other seats.

Pakatan swept to power in Penang in 2008 with the DAP bagging 19 seats, PKR 11 and PAS one, while Umno won 11 seats, and its allies - Gerakan, MCA and MIC - were wiped out from the state, winning none.

While it is clear that Umno rules the Malay belt in Penang, speculation is rife that its marginal seats may be vulnerable due to internal rivalry and sabotage within the party.

Umno leaders, including party president Najib Abdul Razak and deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, have repeatedly reminded the members to unite to ensure victory in the coming polls which is expected to be held in weeks.

"If we report about their internal conflicts like we did about Pakatan Rakyat, we would fill all the pages of our newspapers - from front to back," said a political observer who moves within the Umno camp.

Even Bayan Baru MP Zahrain Mohd Hashim - formerly from PKR and who recently joined Umno because it was "the only party which cared for the Malays", had this to say in his latest post on Facebook:

"Let's see BN keep to its word with winnable candidates in PRU13 and not just cronies of certain BN leaders riding on Najib's popularity!"

'We will do better this time'

Seberang Jaya assemblyperson Mohd Arif Mohd Shah, who holds one of these marginal seats, begs to differ.

Mohd Arif said his party is expecting to win more seats this time because of the "unity forged" at every level in Penang BN under the leadership of its new state chief, Gerakan's Teng Chang Yeow.

Like other BN leaders, Mohd Arif is banking on Najib's transformation plan and promises (Janji Ditepati) to help them wrest Penang in this coming polls.

"The people can see that he walks the talk. His actions enlighten me, and I am sure others as well," Mohd Arif told Malaysiakini.

When asked about the status of his seat since he won only by 533 votes against his opponent, PKR's Ramli Bulat, Mohd Arif said:

"Whether we won by only 50 or 500 votes, we will do better this time."

He then went on to condemn Pakatan's policies in Penang, saying the state government - led by DAP - "have nothing to show for" after ruling for five years.

He rubbished the manifesto unveiled by Pakatan on Monday, saying that even that has "backfired", unlike Najib's well-thought-out transformation plan.

"It is often said that plans seldom fail but it is the people who fail to plan. For Pakatan, they have not only failed to plan, their plans failed as well," he guffawed.

BN needs 30 percent swing

Despite the criticisms, PKR - which will battle both Umno and Gerakan in 16 seats - is not about to give them up without a major fight.

Instead of defending its haul of seats, the party has gone on the offensive to capture the four seats it had narrowly lost in 2008 and warned Umno not to be too overly confident in retaining them.

Deputy Chief Minister I Mansor predicts that BN needs a 30 percent swing in some seats to obtain a comfortable win and recapture the state government.

"But it is not likely to see a shift as much as 30 percent in any seats - whether it is a Malay majority or mixed ones," he said.

Penang opposition leader Azhar Ibrahim had said that BN is confident that it can retake the state with a simple majority if component parties MCA and Gerakan deliver at least eight seats in the next general election.

Umno leaders have mooted the '3-3-3-1 formula' to win Penang. It involved Umno, MCA and Gerakan adding three seats each and MIC one seat to BN's existing 11 state assembly seats.

Mansor is unfazed by Umno's campaign to unseat PKR by exploiting Malay sentiments with its accusations that the state government has marginalised the community.

"It does not work any more, the people are aware. They cannot go on lying to people. Do not ever underestimate the intelligence of the voters," he said.

"They are hitting us because we are strong, not weak. We may be ‘younger' compared to other parties but we brought DAP and PAS together," added the Penanti assemblyperson.

"They think they can destroy this young growing tree or nip it in the bud, but no matter what they do, we will continue to grow and grow," he vowed.

BN 'daydreaming', says Malik

State PKR vice-chief Abdul Malik Kassim joined Mansor to scoff at Umno for harbouring thoughts of winning his party's seats, telling them to stop "daydreaming ".

"We are in touch with the ground while they (BN) are floating in the air," the Batu Maung assemblyperson shot back.

"Have they gone the ground, one year ago or even six months ago? In my area, they were seen there about three months back, while we have been working in Batu Muang as if there is no tomorrow," he added.

"Our mission is not complete until we take over Putrajaya. Do you think we will rest on our laurels?" the state executive councillor on Islamic affairs asked.

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