Tuan Aziz visiting a school in Manik Urai Baru
FOR the past week of the Manik Urai by-election, Abdul Aziz has been sitting on the porch of the Manik Urai Baru home of the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate, overseeing a daily serving of breakfast. “Looking after the food,” Abdul Aziz says.
“I support BN because it includes all races,” Abdul Aziz says. “Also, they are not as fanatic as PAS.”
Abdul Aziz is the cousin of Umno’s Tuan Aziz Tuan Mat, the BN candidate for this rural state constituency, where a by-election has been called because of the death of the incumbent from PAS, Ismail Yaacob.
As of 10 July 2009, both the PAS and Barisan Nasional (BN) campaigns are broadly similar. As strategy, both sides emphasise their religious credentials, and focus on issues of development — promised, delivered, or undelivered. Both are engaged in intensive door-to-door campaigning — such as Tuan Aziz’s morning visit to the house of Puan Jamilah in Manik Urai Baru.
“I was brought up in circumstances where I saw many poor people,” Tuan Aziz tells The Nut Graph, when we meet in this Manik Urai Baru household.
“I saw how the Malay [Malaysians], especially, needed advocacy,” Tuan Aziz, 39, adds. His joining Umno, the largest Malay Malaysian party, was therefore a natural choice — especially since his father had been involved in its politics.
“Through watching my father’s work, I saw how politics could play a role in helping people, especially in rural communities,” Tuan Aziz, who is the Kuala Krai Umno Youth chief, explains. Manik Urai is one of four state seats in the Kuala Krai parliamentary constituency.
Power to develop
BN’s main strength in the Manik Urai contest is that they have the influence, being a federal power, to bring the outside world to this predominantly Malay Malaysian constituency in Kelantan.
“Our candidate is better educated, has more experience, and knows proper procedures better,” Kelantan Umno chief Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said in a press conference on 9 July.
Campaign posters in front of Tuan Aziz’s temporary home in Manik Urai Baru
Tuan Aziz’s selling point is that he is a former officer with the South Kelantan Development Authority (Kesedar). His administrative background gels with the BN’s promise of prompt, focused development.
“Issues here are mainly those of infrastructure and unemployment,” Tuan Aziz explains.
“There are social issues affecting youth. Parents have brought up the problem of their children not being able to finds jobs here. Most of our youth are working outside of Manik Urai,” he continues.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has promised that Manik Urai will be the BN government’s “golden child” — provided their candidate wins.
“I cannot make any promises, but I will try to deliver on my duties if I am elected,” Tuan Aziz tells his audience in Puan Jamilah’s home. “I will do what I can,” he adds, pointing out that his tenure would be brief even though the next general election must only be held by 2013 or in four years’ time.
Tuan Aziz already has a game-plan. “Tell me your needs, and I will come up with a checklist. I will present this to our national leaders and sit down with them to prioritise, based on need and eligibility.”
While PAS candidate Mohd Fauzi Abdullah‘s primary battleground is in the Manjor polling district, which the Islamist party failed to seize in the 2008 general election, Tuan Aziz has to work everywhere else.
His task is difficult: convincing the 12,293 registered voters in this traditionally PAS stronghold that the BN’s commitment to development trumps its rival’s grassroots charm and Islamic ideals.
Tuan Aziz at the home of Puan Jamilah, a resident in Manik Urai Baru
Supporters for either party are adamantly territorial. “I won’t tell you the directions to Puan Jamilah’s house if you support Mohd Fauzi,” a resident told The Nut Graph earlier.
“We must not be enemies with our opponents,” the host at Puan Jamilah’s home says, when he introduces the BN candidate. “If they say anything about us, we have to be silent.”
“So far, so good,” Tuan Aziz says, when he is asked how his campaign is going.
“In this short time, I have met a lot of voters from all the areas (of the constituency),” he reveals. “All the people I have met have expressed their support for the BN.”
Whether spoken endorsement translates into ballots remains to be seen. In his press conference, Mustapa admitted that, even if the number of fence-sitters appears to be diminishing, the BN is trailing behind PAS in terms of support.
“This is a PAS stronghold,” Tuan Aziz concurs. “I have to work very hard.”
“The rural society here is more appreciative of amicability. They like leaders they are able to meet,” he reveals.
A street named after beloved late state assemblyperson Ismail Yaacob. Both Mohd Fauzi and Tuan Aziz have to convince voters that they will be able to serve the constituency like Paksu Wil did
According to 50-year-old Mohd Fauzi, a vital factor in how Manik Urai constituents cast their votes is how accessible their prospective state assemblyperson will be. The PAS candidate was confident that he could fulfil this need.
Tuan Aziz, likewise, seems to be in a hurry to catch up in meeting as many voters as he can. Talking to Puan Jamilah’s neighbours, the BN candidate is apologetic for the shortness of his visit.
“I’m sorry I cannot shake everyone’s hand,” he says, asking his listeners, who will go to the polls tomorrow on 14 July 2009, to be understanding.
“But people say that if you see someone, you will be able to know his personality,” Tuan Aziz says. “So I hope that you will know who I am.”