KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) could lose Kedah in Election 2013 with a mere six per cent swing in votes from the Malay and Chinese communities, a private survey by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research has found.
A Kedah PAS leader told The Malaysian Insider that a possible reason for the drop in Chinese support was Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Razak’s ailing health, which he said had added to the perception of instability in the state government.
The leader also noted that Malay support for opposition parties PAS, PKR and the DAP during the 2008 general election had not been very strong to begin with, owing to the parties’ slim victory in the country’s rice-bowl state during the tumultuous polls.
“For example, in the Tanjung Dawai state seat, we won by barely a hundred votes,” the PAS leader said on condition of anonymity.
He added that the trend of votes from the Chinese community in supporting Barisan Nasional (BN) candidates at state-level but backing PR at federal level appeared to suggest a serious lack of confidence in the Kedah PR leadership.
Merdeka Center director Ibrahim Suffian underlined three likely factors behind the loss of support for the Kedah PR government, including the RM500 cash handouts under the Najib administration’s Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (BR1M) programme.
“Secondly, there may be internal issues within the state government, such as its service delivery and thirdly, the new crop of candidates that Datuk Seri Najib Razak has proposed have begun to draw voters back into BN’s fold,” he said when contacted by The Malaysian Insider.
The prime minister dissolved Parliament yesterday and several states followed suit while the Kedah MB said he would seek the state Ruler’s consent today. Elections are expected by the end of April.
Azizan has expressed confidence in PR’s chances in Kedah despite the reported in-fighting among state PAS leaders that could topple the fledgling pact in the state.But PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu dismissed the independent pollster’s findings, saying it would not hamper the Islamist party’s efforts to keep Kedah in Election 2013.
“I will go all out to help PAS and Pakatan recapture Kedah. Yes, I am aware of Merdeka Center’s findings,” he said when contacted by The Malaysian Insider.
“We promise to improve on our weaknesses to ensure that we will get to rule for a second term,” said the PAS leader, who is expected to contest in Kedah’s Pendang parliamentary seat.
In a recent interview with The Malaysian Insider, Azizan expressed confidence in PR’s chances in Kedah despite a recent prediction that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s influence and in-fighting among state PAS leaders could topple the fledgling pact in the state.
Azizan said voters should continue to support PR in Kedah because of several measures undertaken by his administration, including eliminating corruption and providing insurance coverage to all senior citizens, regardless of race.
“There is no corruption in Kedah. If there is, just arrest them,” said Azizan.
“I give aid to the rakyat without looking at their race. I use the Kifaalah system… all dead people, Malays, Chinese Indians, all get it,” added the Sungai Limau assemblyman, referring to an insurance scheme for all senior citizens in Kedah that was first introduced by the Kelantan PAS government.
“I give education, education assistance… I also introduced the Kedah agricultural agenda,” said Azizan.
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said recently that Azizan will continue to lead Kedah PAS as its state commissioner in facing Election 2013 that must be held by late June.
In Election 2008, the loose coalition of PAS, PKR and the DAP soared to a surprise victory in Kedah when it trounced BN, sweeping 22 of the state’s 36-seat assembly.
But two PKR representatives — Bakar Arang’s Tan Wei Shu and Lunas’ Mohd Radzhi Salleh — subsequently quit to become BN-friendly independents, citing their growing disillusionment with their party leadership.
Their quit decision effectively narrowed the seat margin between BN and PR to a mere four.
In May 2010, rumours began circulating that the state’s PR-led government would lose its already tenuous control of the state assembly and even fall back into BN’s hands due to more defections from PKR assemblymen.
But in a mammoth ceramah on the night of May 22, all remaining 20 PR state assemblymen turned up to defy the rumours, declaring their allegiance to Azizan’s leadership.
The PAS leadership has yet to officially indicate who will lead the party’s campaign in Kedah for Election 2013.
Politicians from the ruling BN and opposition PR will be fighting tooth and nail to wrest majority control over 222 parliamentary seats and 505 state seats in the coming polls, which analysts have said will a toss-up between both pacts.