KUALA TERENGGANU, 9 Jan 2009: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s presence here yesterday was brief but it might have just tipped the scales in Barisan Nasional (BN)’s favour to retain the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat.
He might not have been able to meet the voters himself, but the prime minister’s visit has injected a fresh sense of confidence in the BN machinery to continue wooing some 80,000 voters in what political observers consider a close fight.
Soon after he left the Waterfront Heritage City late last night, the coalition’s machinery was seen around the constituency putting up party flags and posters. Prior to that, there were few BN buntings even though campaigning began right after nomination day on 6 Jan.
This change of attitude might have everything to do with the closed-door meeting Abdullah had with the machinery right after his arrival in this city.
“Yes, at present our machinery is moving rather slow but I believe they will gain their momentum soon,” he was heard telling a group of reporters covering his less-than-10-hour visit.
Show of faith
In a way, the short visit can be viewed as a show of faith in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s ability to run the show alone though some quarters believe that BN has a lot at stake in this by-election.
Abdullah, who was clearly aware of this, however said that that was a matter of opinion, and the by-election’s outcome would not affect BN as a government. Nor could be used as a yardstick to determine the party’s future, or to measure people’s acceptance of Najib as the prime-minister-in-waiting.
People, he said, would interpret the by-election result any way they wanted but it would not represent everyone’s voice.
He also took the opportunity to remind the machinery that it was their responsibility to explain to the people why BN candidate, Umno’s Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh, should be elected instead of joining the fray to criticise his personality.
“It’s quite baffling that the critics come mostly from our side when we are supposed to defend him,” Abdullah had said.
His advice could not have come sooner as Wan Ahmad Farid has been described as “aloof”, even “a snob”.
There is hope yet for this first timer as his opponent from PAS, Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut, has also been described as “looking unfriendly”.
To some, it may not be important whether the candidate possesses a sunny disposition or not, but as Najib pointed out several days ago, people in Kuala Terengganu appreciate kampung-style humility.
There is some truth in Najib’s remark as random conversations with locals indicate that fence sitters will usually go for the candidate rather than the party, and it is the approachable candidate who will garner more votes.
Abdullah has stressed to the BN machinery that their candidate possesses good qualities, “or else I wouldn’t have appointed him as my political secretary”. This, he said, should be explained to the voters.
With seven days to go before the 17 Jan polling day, there is still no clear indication who will win this three-corner fight, although many have dismissed independent candidate Azharudin Mamat@Adam. Hence, it’s clear that the battle will be mainly between the Umno and PAS. — Bernama