ALOR SETAR: Barisan Nasional says it will retain Kedah in the general election and predicts taking 30 of the 36 state seats for a resounding victory.
On the parliamentary front, the ruling coalition has declared that it could win 13 of the 15 seats, including the “hot seat” of Langkawi.
Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah said this was based on his surveys conducted throughout the state.
He said Kedah Barisan was ready to confront Pakatan Harapan led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is widely tipped to contest the Langkawi parliamentary seat, and thwart PAS’ bid.
Ahmad Bashah identified the two “problematic” parliamentary seats as Sungai Petani and Padang Serai, both now held by PKR, due to the large number of Chinese voters.
“It is not only one survey; we have done several and are confident of holding on to Kedah and the Langkawi parliamentary seat.
“We do not fear the Dr Mahathir factor,” he told The Star in an exclusive interview here.
At the 2013 general election, the Kedah Barisan dethroned the then PAS-led Pakatan Rakyat state government, winning 21 state seats. The ruling coalition also took the majority share of parliamentary seats, winning 10.
By comparison, Barisan only managed to win four parliamentary and 14 state seats in the 2008 general election.
Ahmad Bashah, 68, who replaced Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as Mentri Besar after the latter’s sacking in 2016, said the seat allocation among Barisan parties in Kedah would remain as the “status quo”.
The Bakar Bata assemblyman, who first won the then Alor Merah state seat in 1995, looked buoyant but admitted that Barisan needed to focus on winning over the young voters, which he said seemed not to favour them.
Kedah has 1.2 million voters, of whom about 400,000 are aged below 40.
Although the Mentri Besar insisted that his confidence level was based on the hard work of the Barisan, his optimism is likely based on the three-cornered fights with PAS and Pakatan Harapan, thus splitting the Opposition votes.
Elaborating on the hot seat of Langkawi, he said: “We know that the voters there will vote for the future.
“They can see that the Government wants to draw more tourists and further develop the island.”
He said it was the Barisan government that made it possible for Dr Mahathir, 93, to develop Langkawi during his time as Prime Minister.
“But Dr Mahathir is no longer in charge; people have to understand that. The Prime Minister now is Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who has shown that he wants to do more for Langkawi.
“We cannot match Dr Mahathir in terms of his seniority, but we have been watching his party. We can do better than them in terms of services and delivery.
“We also have qualified people who are close to the rakyat,” he added.
Ahmad Bashah said he would turun padang (go to the ground) in Langkawi again at the end of the month to meet the people there and gather feedback.
Pressed on who would be a suitable candidate to contest against Dr Mahathir, he said incumbent Langkawi MP Nawawi Ahmad was on the list of candidates but could be replaced.
There is speculation that Mohd Rawi Abdul Hamid may be moved from the Ayer Hangat state seat to contest the parliamentary seat.
Ahmad Bashah also said the announcement on Kedah candidates would be made early and that the shortlist had been reduced from five to two for each seat.
He added that Kedah was set to launch its state manisfesto after the national manifesto on April 7.
His message to the non-Malay voters is: “We have to share our future. Please believe me, we have to be together to move ahead.
“Our state slogan has been Muafakat Kedah (Together in Kedah) because that is how we grew –together.”
On the issue of fake news affecting the Kedah campaign, he said his phone battery went flat every day “because of all kinds of nonsensical messages”.
“We are not the ones responsible. We don’t know how to make fake news. It is a waste of time. We prefer to tell the people what we are doing for them,” he said.
Although Pakatan has made Johor its frontline state, Kedah is widely perceived as shaky because of the Dr Mahathir factor, as well as lingering support for Mukhriz.
Pribumi ceramahs in Kedah have drawn big crowds eager to find out what the party has in store for Kedah.
Dr Mahathir is also the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman.
Pakatan is now made up of DAP, PKR, Amanah and Pribumi.