UNLIKE the recent by-elections in Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu, the campaigning for the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat has a rather subdued feel to it.
There could be several factors for this. With two other by-elections taking place simultaneously, the resources of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) could be stretched tight. And it could also be down to the Barisan Nasional (BN) ministers and coalition leaders being preoccupied with the handover of the national leadership from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
But most of all, it could be due to political fatigue in Perak. It has been two months since the BN takeover of the state, and the issue of whether or not it was legally done has all but paralysed the Perak administration. With suits and counter-suits playing out in the courts, voters appear to be a little fed up with the issue. As such, turnout for ceramah have been on the low side.
The BN also appears to have changed tack with fewer announcements of projects or handouts, unlike in the Kuala Terengganu by-election, where such news by the various ministries was made almost daily.
On the PR side, PAS, as the party involved in the by-election, is sticking to nightly ceramah and house-to-house visits by its women’s wing.
Both candidates are busy making the rounds to meet voters and speak at ceramah, too. PAS is fielding its embattled Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Nizar Jamaluddin against the BN’s Ismail Saffian. Independent candidate Kamarul Ramizu Idris is also in the race, but he is expected to be a spoiler.
Unlike other by-elections, the mood in Bukit Gantang during this by-election is very serious. This is understandable, considering the issues played up involve emotive matters such as the feelings of Malay Malaysians towards the sultan and the BN takeover of the state government. There is less talk of development issues but more of race and religion, especially in accusations by the BN against Nizar being a DAP stooge.
Bukit Gantang has 55,562 voters in three state seats of Kuala Sepetang, Changkat Jering and Trong. Polling day is on 7 April.