ALOR SETAR: An air of uncertainty was hanging over Kedah post-GE14 when Pakatan Harapan, despite winning 18 of the 36 state seats, was still unable to form the state government.
It was a clear majority as PAS had 15 seats while the former ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, was trounced with Umno winning only three seats.
Among reasons for the uncertainty was talk that PAS might join forces with Umno, thus denying any side the majority, resulting in a hung state assembly.
Despite no outright majority for any party and the possibility of a fresh state election, Kedah Pakatan went ahead to swear in its chief Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir (pic) as the Mentri Besar, on the premise that the party with the most number of seats had the mandate to form the state government.
And in December last year, they got the much needed extra seat for the slightest edge over PAS and Umno – 19 versus 17 – when Umno’s Guar Chempedak assemblyman Datuk Dr Ku Abdul Rahman Ku Ismail joined Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
PAS and Umno have been quiet since, and their apparent willingness to work with Mukhriz saw a storm averted.
“PAS is not interested in rocking the boat by playing politics, and to a certain extent, has been cooperative with the state government,” said Pakatan's Gurun state assemblyman Datuk Johari Abdul.
For instance, during the recent state assembly sitting, motions were passed without many objections, including Kedah’s plan to obtain a US$50mil (RM166mil) loan from a foreign bank.
Mukhriz had said that the fund was meant to upgrade the water supply infrastructure, and he was satisfied that both sides made an effort to find the best approach to solving the problem.
He also announced in the assembly that the Federal Government had written off Kedah's RM1.7bil water infrastructure debt and considered it a grant.
A string of project announcements by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali in March this year provided urgently needed investments to boost the state economy.
A new international airport in Kulim and a manufacturing and logistics hub near the industrial town are among seven mega projects costing over RM3bil that the Federal Government has announced for Kedah.
Others are the two phases of the Northern Corridor Highway project covering a stretch of 70km, a digital library, a petrochemical industrial park in Gurun, and the Kasih Ibu Darul Aman programme.
Johari, while acknowledging the need to industrialise Kedah, said the government should also put more emphasis on promoting the tourism and agricultural sectors.
“We are the rice bowl of the country, and there are thousands of hectares of padi land which could be a major attraction to bring in local and foreign tourists.
“With around 3.5 million Malaysians visiting Thailand every year, our border towns, especially Bukit Kayu Hitam, have the potential to be a major money-spinner,” he said.
With such massive development plans in the pipeline and other potential money-spinners, Kedah is set to see interesting times as Mukhriz sets out to complete his unfinished business after his premature departure from the scene earlier.
He was also Kedah mentri besar from 2013 to 2016, when he was ousted from state Umno leaders who declared they had no confidence in his leadership.