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The Flipside

Published: Saturday September 20, 2014 MYT 8:03:00 AM
Updated: Saturday September 20, 2014 MYT 8:09:31 AM

A Reversal of Roles

(From right) BN candidate Mat Razi Mat Ail, PAS candidate Wan Rosdi Wan Ibrahim and Indipendence candidate Izat Bukhary waving hand to media after nomination.

(From right) BN candidate Mat Razi Mat Ail, PAS candidate Wan Rosdi Wan Ibrahim and Indipendence candidate Izat Bukhary waving hand to media after nomination.

EXCLUSIVE:

PETALING JAYA: It is easy to confuse between the Barisan Nasional and PAS candidate for the Pengkalan Kubor by-election, and no, it is not because they are both often seen wearing a ‘ketayap’ during their walkabouts.

For once, each party has taken a leaf right out of the other’s ‘playbook’, with Umno fielding religious teacher Mat Razi Mat Ail while PAS has picked building contractor Wan Rosdi Wan Ibrahim.

Mat Razi and Wan Rosdi do not seem to reflect their parties in the traditional sense, where PAS is commonly associated with clergymen, while Umno is predominantly made up of the professional class.

The reversal of roles is hence both intriguing and refreshing, as it represents a gamble on a seat that has been very closely contested in recent elections.

Perhaps more is at stake for Umno, whose previous candidate, Datuk Noor Zahidi Omar was a ‘corporate guy’ who was victorious in Pengkalan Kubor for three straight terms.

Does the party’s decision to opt for a different tactic this time around mean it is fairly confident that the gamble will pay off, or is it banking on the legacy left behind by Noor Zahidi?

Regardless, the move is a proactive response to the transformation plan set out by Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the party’s annual general assembly last year.

During his closed-door presidential address to delegates, he made clear the need to attract more religious scholars into the party’s leadership.

This was exemplified by his decision to offer popular preacher Kazim Elias as well as Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah president Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki a spot on the party’s supreme council.

Though Kazim, a former PAS member, eventually declined the offer, it was indicative of the party’s desire to transform, and Mat Razi’s candidacy is Umno telling the people that it has not abandoned that pledge.

Existingly, the religious scholars in Umno are represented in minority and less effectively so by Ulama Muda Umno (ILMU), a non-governmental organisation affiliated to the party.

On the other hand, PAS has flipped its stance and in picking Wan Rosdi, have signalled that being an ulama or religious expert is no longer a prerequisite for its candidates, not even in Muslim majority Kelantan.

Of course, Wan Rosdi’s candidacy could also stem from the fact that the seat was previously PKR’s for two elections, and in keeping with its supporters’ wishes, PAS has refrained from fielding a religious hardliner.

The Pengkalan Kubor by-election is hence a simultaneous attempt by both parties to reinvent their image, although we will have to wait and see which of them is better at copying the other.

If the first week of campaigning is anything to go by though, then it seems that PAS’ gamble isn’t paying off quite as well as Barisan’s.

While I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with keeping a low profile during an election campaign, Wan Rosdi has been said to be very quiet and uncomfortable in his interactions with the press.

Where Barisan’s Mat Razi has been charismatic and confident during his ceramah, Wan Rosdi has avoided the public spotlight by focusing on house-to-house visits and getting to know constituents personally.

A colleague on the ground said the Barisan campaign machinery was playing the ulama card very strongly, with posters of Mat Razi holding his hands up in prayer. He is also often seen out and about in religious garb.

Contrastingly, members of the press and even opposition-friendly ones have only been able to elicit perfunctory responses from Wan Rosdi, who is more than happy to let his peers do the talking for him.

While a friendly and hardworking candidate should endear themselves to voters rather easily, it is equally important for him to hold his own and convince the voters he can argue their grouses and demands effectively in the state assembly.

And this is where I feel the PAS candidate comes second best.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.

Tags / Keywords: pengkalan kubor, pas, BN, independent

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