JOHOR BARU: Zulkifli Jaafar was smiling from ear to ear on Monday morning when he heard the news about Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s court case.
Zulkifli is Perikatan Nasional’s candidate in the Pulai by-election and early estimates had him trailing behind Pakatan Harapan as the latter coalition had won the seat by a majority of more than 33,000 votes in the 15th General Election (GE15) last year.
But the court decision on Ahmad Zahid, the Deputy Prime Minister who had been facing 47 graft charges, has now boosted his chances, said a visibly cheerful Zulkifli.
“I was smiling when I heard the news. The people, particularly voters in Pulai, will evaluate this decision.
“I believe this will give me more support from the people,” he said when met at an early voting centre in Tampoi yesterday.
Ahmad Zahid was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) on Monday by the High Court, after the government’s prosecution team applied to withdraw the case.
This was after the court found that the prosecution had already established a prima facie case after calling 99 witnesses and tendering reams of documents.
The prosecution’s decision was widely criticised by prominent lawyers and civil society groups who called it “shocking, embarrassing and shameful”, adding that it has dented the unity government’s promises of wanting to stamp out corruption.
The unity government pact, of which Ahmad Zahid is a part, comprised Barisan Nasional, which he leads, and Pakatan.
When met, Pakatan’s candidate Suhaizan Kayat did not want to speculate on how the court decision would affect his chances or the coalition’s campaign.
“This is a court case and I do not want to touch on that – I leave it to the High Court.
“Voters I met have not asked me about Ahmad Zahid’s case. They are more concerned about infrastructure and welfare issues.
“God willing, it will not affect my chances,” he said at the Jualan Rahmah programme in Taman Cempaka here yesterday.
Suhaizan and Zulkfli are in a three-cornered battle with Independent candidate Samsudin Mohamad Fauzi for the Pulai by-election which has been set for Sept 9.
Meanwhile, Johor Umno, which is allied to Pakatan and is aiding the latter’s campaign in Pulai, viewed the court decision positively, saying that it has cleared Ahmad Zahid’s name.
“The decision is a sign of victory and is meaningful to all Umno members, especially Johor Umno, as it will open the eyes of the people and clarify that it was an accusation that was abusive in character,” said Johor Umno chairman Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.
The Pulai parliamentary and Simpang Jeram state by-elections are being held following the death of the incumbent Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub, who was also the Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister, on July 23.
A total of 166,653 people are eligible to vote in Pulai and Simpang Jeram has 40,379 voters.