FORMER Titiwangsa MP Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani is Barisan Nasional’s likely candidate for the parliamentary seat in the 15th General Election (GE15).
“Yes, true. The preparation is okay, we are ready,” he replied in his text message when asked if he was going to contest in Titiwangsa.
Johari who is a former Finance Minister II is the Titiwangsa Umno division chief and Federal Territories Umno chairman.
He was asked about his candidacy when a blue banner carrying his photo was seen at the entrance of Pasar Datuk Keramat in Kuala Lumpur last week.
The banner triggered speculation at the market that Johari was making a comeback after losing to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (Bersatu) Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun in GE14.
Rina won by over 4,000-vote majority in a three-cornered fight.
This was after Johari, in a previous general election, beat PAS candidate Ahmad Zamri Asa’ad Khuzaimi in a straight fight with a majority of some 800 votes.
Another banner seen in Kampung Datuk Keramat was that of Bersatu Youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal.
He recently told a news portal that Johari would be a tough opponent but stopped short of confirming his candidacy.
Talk is that the Deputy National Unity Minister is to replace his party mate Rina in facing Johari.
However, StarMetro found the banners of Johari and Wan Ahmad Fayhsal at the market have since been taken down.
On Rina’s position, it is unclear if the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, will defend her Titiwangsa seat.
She had told a news portal that she would leave the decision to the Perikatan Nasional leadership.
This was despite speculation that she would instead contest in Sepang, Selangor, where she is also the division’s Srikandi (women’s wing) chief.
“We need a bit of time. We are still waiting for the party leadership (on which seat to contest),” said Rina’s aide when contacted.
Unlike many constituencies in the capital city, Titiwangsa is a Malay-majority area comprising Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kampung Baru and Kampung Pandan.
Roughly two-thirds of the electorate are Malays.
Before Rina’s victory, Titiwangsa MPs of the past had been from Umno and PAS.
The 15sq km-constituency had about 55,000 registered voters in GE14 with additional 20,000 first-timers expected to cast their ballots in GE15.
Kampung Baru’s prominent community leader Shamsuri Suradi said both Johari and Rina (if she stands in Titiwangsa again) have their respective strengths.
“Johari has remained active in the constituency even after he lost, contributing funds to flood mitigation efforts in the area.
“Rina regularly helps distribute food to the victims and has kept close to the community,” he said.
Shamsuri, however, said the Kampung Sungai Baru redevelopment debacle, which saw protests from landowners, was a blemish on Rina’s record.
“She was seen as being inactive in speaking up for the homeowners and their relocation issue,” he added.
Titiwangsa PAS election director Azmer Syazwan said the name of the proposed candidate had been sent to the party’s central working committee.
He, however, declined to reveal the name, noting that the vetting process was ongoing and that the division would comply with the final decision.
PAS last held the seat from 2008 to 2013, when the late Dr Lo’Lo’ Mohd Ghazali beat Barisan Nasional’s Aziz Jamaludin with nearly 2,000-vote majority.
Despite the political battle hotting up, voters in Titiwangsa seemed to be nonchalant about the upcoming polls.
A Kampung Baru resident, who declined to be named, said the constituents voted for change in the previous elections.
“But we saw how that turned out,” he added, in reference to the Sheraton Move which saw the 22-month-old Pakatan Harapan government collapse.
A shopper at Pasar Datuk Keramat, identified as only Zaidah, 58, said she was undecided on who to vote for.
“People are less enthusiastic about politics these days. They are more concerned about the rising cost of living.
“You see this small bag of groceries that I’m holding? This cost me about RM100 today,” she said.