THE Bagan Pinang state seat by-election could not have come at a more interesting time, in the fortunes of both the Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Each has its fair share of problems, providing plenty of ammunition for its rival.
Although Prime Minister and BN chairperson Datuk Seri Najib Razak keeps making attempts to restore public confidence, his coalition is riddled with crises of internal leadership. The BN federal government continues to struggle with handling issues such as the death of Teoh Beng Hock and the cow-head protest in Selangor.
Then there were the pre-nomination warnings by Umno veterans such as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah against fielding Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, a former menteri besar found guilty of money politics by Umno’s disciplinary committee. And yet, the BN still chose Isa, quoting his continued popularity among Umno grassroots and local voters, and his track record of service.
The perennial controversy over postal votes is expected to crop up in this by-election. The PR has already voiced its concern over the possible manipulation of postal votes in Bagan Pinang, where such votes account for 4,604 or 33.37% of all registered voters.
The PR has its own share of headaches. Just look at the recent tussle in the Selangor government, with PAS’s exco Datuk Dr Hasan Ali publicly criticising the state’s Select Committee on Competence, Accountability and Transparency.
Also, for a coalition that promises an end to racial politics, it hasn’t figured out what to do with religious politics. Hasan’s repeated calls for alcohol-consuming Muslims to be nabbed come to mind. There’s also the PR’s unresolved stance towards Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s Zulkifli Noordin, who disrupted a Bar Council forum on conversion to Islam in August 2008.
And so, with both the BN and the PR knowing exactly where to hit so it hurts, the battle for Bagan Pinang begins. Polling is on 11 Oct.
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