BESUT: Facing an uphill battle, PAS is hoping to rely collectively on a few issues to create an upset in the Kuala Besut by-election.
One focus of party campaigners at nightly ceremah is on a better life for the local people as Terengganu is the “Kuwait of Malaysia.”
To win Kuala Besut, the party would have to pull away with 1,300 votes from Barisan Nasional’s 2,434 vote-majority secured the last time, explained PAS central committee member Dr Hatta Ramli.
PAS now would have to win extra 150 votes from each of the eight polling districts.
The party managed to win only two polling districts – Kampung Nangka and Bukit Puteri - and even that were by slim majorities during the May 5 general election where Umno candidate Dr A.Rahman Mokhtar defeated PAS candidate Napisah Ismail by 2,434 votes.
“It is not an easy election and we have to overturn quite a big majority. We will be praying hard,” said Dr Hatta of the seat which was last won by PAS in the 1999 elections.
Barisan also had the upper hand as Umno won all the four state seats – Kuala Besut, Kota Putera, Jertih and Hulu Besut – under the Besut parliamentary constituency in the last elections.
PAS also have to contend with the popularity of Besut MP Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh who was the former Mentri Besar.
Dr Hatta said that the fact the elections would be held on a working Wednesday is a big disadvantage as the outside voters would be less likely to return home to vote.
He said about 1,100 of the estimated 1,800 voters living outside Kuala Besut came back to vote in the last elections with around 700 votes going to PAS.
But even with their back against the wall, PAS supporters are pushing their nightly campaign at grassroots level with the “16:16 New Terengganu” motto in reference to the hung state assembly scenario.
Dr Hatta said they would expose local issues in Kuala Besut to garner support especially those linked to economic and social issues.
“Despite Terengganu being the Kuwait of Malaysia, people are not enjoying its wealth.
“We are telling them that they deserve more,” he said, adding that Besut would get a lot of attention during the by-election.
Dr Hatta said Pas would also highlight the purported on-going feud between Idris Jusoh and Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said, which he claimed was stunting development in Besut.
“The voters must convey a strong message that it despises this kind of animosity and one is through the ballot box,” he said.
PAS has been organising ceramah at three different locations every night after the Terawih prayers, with their big guns delivering them.
Over the next week, they will also get Pakatan big guns to speak, with Opposition leader Datuk Sri Anwar Ibrahim’s named being mentioned.
Many in PAS, however, claim that their biggest advantage would be their choice of candidate.
Known as “Che Long,” Azlan, who is the Besut PAS treasurer and Class A contractor, described as a very generous person.
“For this elections, we found that he is the most suitable candidate,” said the Besut PAS leader Ustaz Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad.
A party insider explained that this time, the local people asked for Azlan to be a candidate and did not leave it to the top leaders only to make the choice.
“He is different from the usual candidates fielded by the party before. He is not from the Ulama mold and is quite wealthy.
“However, he is very humble and everybody from the fisherman to the farmers knew him,” he said.
PAS by-election operations director Datuk Husam Musa meanwhile didn’t seem to be very confident of victory, citing an uneven playing field.
He said the party’s chances of victory depended on whether the Election Commission could conduct a free and fair election, citing the use of proper indelible ink to stop multiple voting.
Husam also said that money politics and unbalanced media coverage were also not to their favour.
“If there is a level playing field we have a 55-45 chance of winning,” he claimed, adding that their candidate factor alone could not win the election.