PETALING JAYA: Langkawi is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s best chance to win should he contest in the coming polls, say political analysts.
This was because the former premier has been associated with developing the island from a rural backwater into an international tourist destination.
“For this reason, it may help to sway public opinion and bring in the votes to his advantage.
“Generally, voters there have a soft spot for him over his past contributions towards the long-term improvements in their standard of living,” said Ibrahim Suffian, founder of the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research.
Assoc Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School of Social Sciences said Dr Mahathir’s popularity in Langkawi is “outstanding” compared with other constituencies.
He said besides developing the island, the former prime minister spent a lot of time there before entering politics, and even after he retired in 2003.
“It will be a big challenge for Umno to face him there. You can’t underestimate Dr Mahathir,” he said, adding that Kedahans look up to him due to his past contributions in the state.
Last Dec, the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman indicated that he might contest in Langkawi, Kubang Pasu or Putrajaya.
“People are telling me that I have a good chance of winning. So be ready for that,” Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying then.
Last Sunday, Dr Mahathir was named Pakatan Harapan’s candidate for the post of prime minister if the Opposition coalition wins the general election.
In the 2013 election, Umno candidates won 67.2% of the votes in Langkawi, 58.4% in Kubang Pasu and 69% in Putrajaya.
The incumbents for the seats are Datuk Nawawi Ahmad, Datuk Seri Mohd Johari Baharum and Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, respectively.
Asked about the possibility of a three-cornered fight with PAS and Umno, Ibrahim said Dr Mahathir might not be able to get support from hardcore PAS supporters given the long-standing negative perception of him within the Islamist party.
“That’s why I speculate that he will consider contesting in Langkawi, given PAS’ small footprint there and his positive track record among the islanders,” he said, adding that Kubang Pasu has an average 32% Malay voter support for PAS.
All three seats will be contested by Pribumi in the coming election, according to the Pakatan Harapan seat distribution plan.
But another political analyst Khoo Kay Peng has differing views.
Khoo opined that Dr Mahathir’s best chance would be in Kubang Pasu, which he held from 1974 until 1999.
“It has been his fort throughout his career, so it is definitely his best bet,” said Khoo.
He added that Langkawi would represent his second-best chance while Putrajaya would be the “toughest”.
In the last election, Barisan Nasional won by comfortable majorities in all three parliamentary seats. Dr Mahathir resigned as prime minister in October 2003, after 22 years in power.