(Updated 7.20pm, 17 Jan 2009)
Polling at Sekolah Kebangsaan Pusat Bukit Bandar, where Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh and wife Toh Puan Intan Baizura Abdul Wahab cast their votes
KUALA TERENGGANU: All 36 polling centres for the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary by-election were closed at 5pm today.
Election Commission (EC) chairperson Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said that as of 4pm, the voter turnout was 76%, reports Bernama.
The constituency has 80,229 voters, including 1,305 postal voters.
The ballot papers will be counted at the 143 voting channels and later taken to the State Stadium here for tallying. The result is expected to be announced by 10.30pm.
In the 12th general election in March last year, the turnout was 82.45% or 66,231 out of 80,325 voters.
Polling, which started at 8am at 143 voting channels, progressed well with no untoward incidents reported, said Abdul Aziz.
Abdul Aziz, who was speaking at a press briefing at the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Indoor Stadium here, had earlier described the atmosphere on polling day as “berpesta”.
As of noon, the EC chairperson said that the turnout for Saluran 1 and 2 – which caters to senior citizens – was more than 50%.
However, turnout for Saluran 3, 4 and 5, which usually caters for those 40-years-old and below, was low, about 25%.
He explained that voters in this group tend to cast their votes later in the day.
Abdul Aziz also said the EC had not received any complaints so far of voting irregularities and denied opposition party allegations about phantom voters.
When asked about a report on the Malaysian for Free and Fair Election (Mafrel) website concerning a fight between PAS and Umno supporters at the polling station in Sekolah Kebangsaan Losong this morning, Abdul Aziz said he was not aware of any such incident.
The Mafrel report stated that four Federal Reserve Unit trucks and a helicopter were dispatched to the scene. There were no reports of arrests.
Candidates first to vote
Earlier, both the Barisan Nasional (BN) and PAS candidates voted first thing this morning after polling for the Kuala Terengganu by-election commenced at 8am.
BN’s Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh from Umno voted at 8.05am at Sek Keb Bukit Besar in Ladang together with his wife, Toh Puan Intan Baizura Abdul Wahab. He expressed confidence he would win in the closely contested three-way fight against PAS candidate Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut and independent candidate Azharudin Mamat @ Adam.
“I am confident of a win because I ran a positive campaign,” he told reporters of the 11-day campaign, describing PAS’s campaign as one of hatred.
On the mysterious “gift” of RM300 that was given to reporters at the Information Ministry’s media centre yesterday, the former senator and deputy home minister said the money was not from him.
“I do not condone giving money to journalists,” he said.
Bernama added Wan Farid as saying that during the by-election, there would be people out to tarnish his name. “I don’t have any money to offer to anybody… You know people can do anything especially in this by-election.
“It is not from Barisan Nasional, that is for sure. That is not my money,” he told reporters after casting his vote.
PAS candidate, Abdul WahidPAS’s Abdul Wahid was the first to vote at Sek Keb Chabang Tiga after polling opened at 8am, followed by his wife, Wan Fatimah Wan Abdullah.
Abdul Wahid Endut commended the police for ensuring peace and order ever since the 6 Jan nomination day for the by-election, Bernama reported.
“I am grateful for the measures taken by the police, so far there have been no untoward incidents in the by-election,” he told reporters after casting his vote.
He also commended the EC, which he said had been transparent in handling the by-election.
Commenting on the 15 Jan 2009 resignation of the EC’s returning officer, Datuk Mat Razali Kassim, Abdul Wahid said it showed the EC’s transparency: “This is the first time in an election an Election Commission returning officer had to resign. Not the player but the referee is sent off instead.”
The EC did not state the reasons for the withdrawal. Kuala Terengganu City Council secretary Wan Mustafa Wan Hassan has been appointed the new returning officer.
On his chances in the by-election, Abdul Wahid, who is the five-term Wakaf Mempelam assemblyperson, said he would rather leave it to the voters to decide. “I’ve worked hard and I believe the voters are mature in making their own decisions. It’s up to them.”
Bernama also reported independent candidate Azharudin did not cast his vote as he is a registered voter in the Petaling Jaya Utara parliamentary area.
A total of 143 voting channels in 36 polling centres were opened from 8am today to enable the voters to cast their ballot in the parliamentary by-election.
The polling centres are located at the Yayasan Islam Terengganu al-Quran and Fardu Ain learning centre in Jalan Hiliran as well as in schools and multipurpose halls around the city.
Voters had been expected to cast their ballot early to take advantage of the fair weather in the morning. The Meteorological Department had forecast rain in the afternoon.
The by-election is being held following the death of Deputy Education Minister Datuk Razali Ismail on 28 Nov 2008.
In the 12th general election in March 2008, Razali defeated Mohamad Sabu of PAS and an independent candidate, Maimun Yusuf, with a 628-vote majority.
Traffic in the city this morning was under control, with vehicles carrying party flags seen plying the streets, while police personnel were stationed in strategic locations.
Police have deployed some 6,000 personnel throughout the by-election.
BN and PAS supporters side by side, shouting out to motorists
Party supporters lined up both sides of the road with flags and posters of their respective candidates to wave at motorists and promote either the BN or PAS candidate. However, no one was allowed to sport any party logos inside the polling centres.
Most analysts say the by-election is too close to call.
Danny Lim is a freelance journalist and photographer.