FROM day one, the Barisan Nasional (BN) has been pulling out all the stops in its Bagan Pinang by-election campaign. Sure, the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) managed to muster more than 4,000 supporters — more than double the BN’s — on nomination day. But since nominations closed, it is clear that the PR is struggling to catch up with the BN, in terms of outreach and conducted activities.
This is largely due to the advantage of incumbency — this seat fell vacant because of the death of BN assemblyperson Azman Mohammad Noor. It is probably also due to BN candidate Tan Sri Isa Samad‘s charisma and influence as a former menteri besar and seasoned politician. So far, Isa has demonstrated a readiness to piggyback on government functions to spread his campaign message — and BN ministers have been happy to let him.
The PR is banking on its clean candidate with a history of social activism, PAS’s Zulkefly Omar. But Zulkefly faces an uphill battle. While he and his party are ever ready to play up his activist credentials, they are wary about answering questions on Islamic policies. Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor‘s whipping sentence, Selangor PAS commissioner Datuk Dr Hasan Ali‘s many outbursts, and calls for concert banning are all issues Zulkefly and company avoid like the plague in this multiracial, multireligious constituency.
So both the BN and PR have their own Achilles’ heels in this contest. The BN simply cannot wash off their candidate’s stain of corruption. But the PR cannot afford to spook voters any further by talking about PAS’s numerous Islamist tantrums — all as yet unresolved in the coalition.
With five days to go until polling day on 11 Oct 2009, the choice before voters seems to be a tough one. How will they decide?
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