TAIPING, 2 April 2009: Barisan Nasional (BN) is looking to unleash its secret weapon as it makes its final assault to woo Malay Malaysian voters in Bukit Gantang by bringing in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to help with the campaign.
The former prime minister may turn up to stump for the BN candidate Ismail Saffian, who is facing PAS candidate Datuk Seri Muhammad Nizar Jamaluddin and independent Kamarul Ramizu Idris in the by-election.
The move to bring in Mahathir follows the overwhelmingly positive response he received at the closing of the recent Umno general assembly.
Mahathir’s arrival is expected over the weekend ahead of polling day on 7 April. This move is being calculated to affect some change in the minds of Malay Malaysian voters still ambivalent about the party’s new leadership and state of the country under Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Malay Malaysian voters comprise 63.5% of the Bukit Gantang parliamentary constituency.
Mahathir’s appearance at the assembly, linking arms with new Umno president Najib, and with outgoing premier Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is meant to tap into feelings on Malay unity. It is also meant to signal to Bukit Gantang voters an era of stability in the country with Umno as the lead party in the BN coalition.
The Nut Graph learned about the plans to rope in Mahathir from a BN Perak leader who did not want to be named, and who cautioned that nothing had been confirmed.
Today, Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, when approached, also declined to confirm the matter, and instead said: “Just wait, we will make the announcement.”
Mahathir is still held in high esteem by Umno despite having quit the party over his disagreement with Abdullah, his chosen successor.
However, there is one snag if the former premier does show up in Bukit Gantang. Mahathir was a critic of the BN’s takeover of the Perak state government, describing it as unlawful.
Zambry (left) and MuhyiddinIt also remains to be seen how effective such a strategy would be when premier turned blogger has not yet rejoined Umno, though he did announce that he would do so soon.
Meanwhile, Muhyiddin said that BN had entered the “critical phase” in the by-election campaign. He said this was evidenced by attempts from the opposition in spreading rumours and falsifying letters.
Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, who was with Najib, accused the opposition of distributing leaflets containing false information about one of BN’s programmes. He showed a copy of the leaflet which stated that free food and lucky draws would be given to those who attended the event.
Zambry also said that letters using the Umno logo and letterhead had been distributed telling BN election workers to collect money at a certain location.
Both Muhyiddin and Zambry were speaking to the press after attending a BN election machinery meeting, here.