Updated 12.14pm, 23 May 2009
(popcorn © Adirana Herbut / sxc.hu)
BUKIT MERTAJAM, 23 May 2009: The Penanti state by-election is shaping up to be an interesting four-cornered fight.
With Barisan Nasional sitting this one out, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s Dr Mansor Othman, 56, faces three independents: former Penang PKR Wanita chief Aminah Abdullah, 56, manufacturing company manager Nai Khan Ari Nai Keow, 41, and Parti Imam SeMalaysia (PIS)’s Kamarul Ramizu Idris, 42.
The returning officer Roslan Yahaya made his official announcement of the eligible candidates at noon.
Another candidate, businessperson Mohd Saberi Othman, 49, was disqualified, and refused to speak to reporters, saying only that he “did not fulfil the criteria”.
PKR’s R Sivarasa told The Nut Graph that the party had objected to Mohd Saberi’s candidacy on the grounds that they had credible information he was a bankrupt. Election Commission officials investigated the matter and upheld the objection.
All five candidates filed in their papers at the nomination centre at National Youth Skills Institute (IKBN) in Penanti this morning. Polling day is on 31 May.
As expected, Mansor, who is the Penang PKR deputy liaison chief came with the biggest entourage. Accompanied by de facto PKR chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Pakatan Rakyat (PKR) leaders and about 1,000 supporters, he made his way to the nomination centre at about 8.45am. The crowd soon swelled to over 3,000, and they were enthusiastically waving banners and flags of PKR, DAP and PAS.
Also on the scene was PR’s embattled Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, Selangor MB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, Bukit Selambau state assemblyperson S Manikumar, and PKR’s Tian Chua, Azmin Ali, R Sivarasa and Kuantan member of parliament Fauziah Salleh.
Aminah was the first to file in her papers, followed by Nai, Mohd Saberi and Mansor. The surprise of the day was the arrival of a fifth candidate, Kamarul Ramizu, who is possibly using this by-election to help promote PIS.
Kamarul Ramizu had stood as a candidate in the Bukit Gantang parliamentary by-election in April and lost his deposit, having garnered only 62 votes.
Nomination closed at 10am, followed by an hour-long objection period.
Without the BN, the usual by-election fanfare was missing. Police presence, too, was kept minimal, with less than 200 cops on duty. But they were kept busy trying to keep the PKR supporters in line.
The by-election is being held following the resignation of incumbent assemblyperson and former 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 Malaysian and 0.71% from other communities.
12.05pm: Mohd Saberi refuses to explain the reasons for his disqualification, saying only that he “did not fulfil the criteria”. PKR’s Sivarasa told The Nut Graph that the party has made the objection to Mohd Saberi’s candidacy on the grounds that they had credible information that he was a bankrupt. Election Commission officials investigated and sustained the objection.
11.57am: It’s official — Mohd Saberi is disqualified.
11:35am: Rumour has it that one of the independent candidates, Mohd Saberi, has been disqualified. No official confirmation yet.
11am: Objection period ends.
10.26am: Police addressing rowdy PKR crowd, many of whom are heckling. Police say they will allow 30 voters in batches of five to make objections to the nominations. Each batch given two minutes.
10.20am: Objections raised against one of Kamarul Ramizu’s witnesses, who is from Perak.
10am: Nomination period closes. Returning officer confirms only five nomination papers filed.Start of one hour-long objection period.
9.50am: DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng are also on the scene.
9:24am: Parti Iman SeMalaysia (PIS)’s Kamarul Ramizu Idris — who contested and lost in the Bukit Gantang by-election – files his nomination papers.
9:18am: Independent candidates Nai and Mohd Saberi handing in their nomination forms now. Mansor follows suit. Aminah had filed her’s a little earlier.
9.05am: Nizar gives press conference. Says he will file an appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision to set aside High Court decision on the rightful Perak MB case once the written judgment is released. “The courts only interpret the law. So the courts are not Pakatan’s only avenue in this case. Because the courts do not determine who is the government; ultimately it is the people who will decide,” he says.
9:00am: Pakatan Rakyat’s embattled Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin accompanied by Bukit Selambau state assemblyperson S Manikumar also arrive at the centre. DAP and PAS supporters carrying party flags also throng the area.
8:50am: Other PKR leaders spotted include vice-president Azmin Ali, Kuantan member of parliament Fauziah Salleh and Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim.
8:47am: PKR procession leading up to the nomination centre swells as up to 1,000 party supporters accompanied by Pakatan Rakyat leaders, including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, make their way up the road to the centre.
8:43am: Some reports estimated police presence at about 500 in total, but CPO Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakob refuses to commit. Says it all is peaceful, then police presence will be minimal.
8:35am: Thai-Malaysian Nai gives a press conference. He says he is a former Gerakan member and a local leader who quit the party on 19 May after BN said it would not contest the by-election. He also says he is not sponsored.
8:32am: There are approximately 200 people, mostly PKR supporters, at the nomination centre, and half that outside the compound. Police presence is far less visible than in previous by-elections. About 50 police personnel are in the compound, with more outside.
8:24am: Police herd into media tent in the compound of the nomination centre. Atmosphere on the whole is fairly quiet at the nomination centre at the National Youth Skills Institute. A number of stalls on the road leading to the centre.
8:18am: Conflicting reports that up to six independents are expected. Thai M’sian candidate Nai arrives at nomination centre accompanied by a small group of supporters.
8.05am: Independent candidates, Aminah, Mohd Saberi and Nai, are apparently at the nomination centre, according to unconfirmed reports. Only Aminah is actually spotted.
8:01am: PKR’s strategic director Tian Chua shows up. More Pakatan Rakyat supporters start turning up.
7:59am: Seems to be a very quiet, laid-back affair at the nomination centre. Independents have not yet showed up. PKR candidate says he needs to double back as “his boss” has arrived.
7:51am: Accompanied by a few supporters, PKR candidate Mansor Othman arrives at the nomination centre in a four-wheel drive and poses for photographers.