IT has been nearly a week of campaigning here in Penanti, and the by-election still seems skimpy on issues. True, all the candidates have revealed their “manifestos”, but none of them seem to be too specific.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) candidate Dr Mansor Othman has been the most strategic in releasing his manifesto, charter and governing principles bit by bit to the media. However, even he skirts around other issues on people’s minds, such as PKR’s infighting and whether or not this has a cost on the efficacy of Pakatan Rakyat (PR)’s representatives.
This is why Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel), a watchdog group, wanted so badly to hold a public debate among candidates, making this an “exemplary” by-election. The debate was successfully held on 28 May 2009, although it was held without the participation of Mansor and independent candidate Aminah Abdullah. Only independents Nai Khan Ari Nai Keow and Kamarul Ramizu Idris showed up.
Penanti voters, however, showed no interest in Mafrel’s pioneering effort to strengthen Malaysia’s democratic processes. They preferred going for PR ceramahs, and appeared happier to absorb lectures by politicians at the podium.
Nevertheless, PR is concerned that voter turnout will not be that great on polling day on 31 May. PKR elections director Saifuddin Nasution, however, is confident that his campaign program, which he started planning at least three weeks ago, will get PKR the resounding support it needs.
PKR’s candidate Mansor is likely to win since Penanti is one of the state seats in the Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency which is held by the party’s de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
The by-election is being held following the resignation of incumbent assemblyperson and former Penang Deputy Chief Minister I Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin.
Penanti has 15,384 registered voters, 72.68% of whom are Malay Malaysians, 24.22% Chinese Malaysians, 2.39% Indian Malaysians and 0.71% from other communities.