THE circle around Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah is brimming with confidence that he will continue to be the Kedah Mentri Besar after the general election.
Well, for their information, the two Opposition coalitions in the state, Pakatan Harapan and Gagasan Sejahtera, also seem confident that the next mentri besar will come from their side.
Kedah is bracing for a battle of coalitions and multi-cornered fights galore. There are 1.2 million voters in the state and they will be spoilt for choice this time around.
It will be an election like no other or, as the Malays would say, “lain daripada yang lain”.
The state will hold the record of having the oldest candidate because Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 93, is almost confirmed to contest in Langkawi where his footprint is everywhere.
It is also the only other state where a father and son will be contesting at the same time because Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, 53, is scheduled to contest the Jerlun parliamentary and Ayer Hitam state seats.
A total of 36 state seats and 15 parliamentary seats will be there for the taking.
According to Kedah Pakatan secretary Dr Abdul Rahman Ahmad, Pribumi will contest 14 state seats, PKR and Amanah 10 each and DAP two.
Pribumi and PKR will also contest six parliamentary seats each and Amanah three.
Dr Abdul Rahman said there has not been any sort of formal agreement or discussion about who will be the mentri besar in the event of Pakatan winning but Mukhriz is seen as the likely choice because his party is contesting the most state seats.
PAS state commissioner Dr Ahmad Fakhruddin Syeikh Fakhrurazzi is the obvious mentri besar choice for the PAS-led Gagasan although he was too modest to touch on the matter.
Gagasan is seen as a third force or a splinter group in national politics but in Kedah, it is a force to be reckoned with. Even Umno leaders regard PAS as a formidable opponent.
Pakatan loses out to Umno and PAS in terms of machinery which has intensified in the last few months. Both parties also have the women power that is able to go door-to-door to campaign, something which Pakatan lacks.
“In Kedah, it has always been Umno and PAS. Amanah will pull some votes from PAS and Bunga (Pribumi) will pull some from Umno but it is always difficult for splinter parties in Kedah.
“Mukhriz took the Umno grassroots for granted. We were the ones who provided the mat (bagi tikar or roll out the red carpet) for him, we prepared the ground for him to win a parliamentary seat, then a state seat and for him to become the division chairman (in Jerlun),” said Ahmad Bashah.
Barisan won 21 state seats in 2013, just three short of securing a two-thirds majority. It is now left with 20 state seats without Mukhriz.
Ahmad Bashah, boosted by the prospect of a split opposition, is confident of 30 state and 13 parliamentary seats.
The general opinion is that Pakatan will be weakened without PAS there to deliver the Malay support.
At the same time, Barisan’s base has eroded because of the Mahathir factor.
PAS could emerge the winner if the fight involves Pribumi, Umno and PAS. But if the contest involves Amanah, PAS and Umno, then Umno could be the beneficiary.
In short, Amanah and Pribumi can do damage to PAS and Umno, but they may not be able to win enough seats to form the government.
However, Dr Abdul Rahman is predicting that Pakatan can win up to 24 state and 10 parliamentary seats.
Only Dr Fakhruddin declined to make any prediction for the Gagasan coalition except to say that PAS has won before and it can win again.
Everyone thinks they can win but there can only be one winner.
Amanah leader Datuk Phahrolrazi Mohd Zawawi said the Pakatan coalition parties in Kedah work well together unlike in other states where there is some friction.
Phahrolrazi, who led the exit from PAS in Kedah, had wanted to retire, pleading that he is 65 and too old to contest. But he has name recognition and has been persuaded to give it another go.
“Amanah needs to win a few seats in order to survive beyond this general election,” he said.
He is also regarded as a possible mentri besar candidate because of his experience as a state exco member under the former PAS state administration.
There is also a dark horse mentri besar candidate trotting in from the wings. Kedah PKR chief and Sungai Petani MP Johari Abdul is planning to contest a state seat in Gurun.
This has led to speculation that he is vying for the mentri besar post. Local journalists claimed that the body language between Johari and Mukhriz has since grown quite awkward.
Despite the victory predictions by rival coalitions, there is still a big question mark over several grey areas. Surveys have shown a large segment of civil servants are undecided or silent about who to support. They are an influential group in Kedah and they could decide where a seat goes.
It is thus unsurprising that Barisan has been exploiting a ceramah speech by Mukhriz during which he pledged to sack the top civil servants if Pakatan wins.
About 20% of Kedah voters live and work outside the state and will return to vote. The popular assumption is that they will more likely support the Opposition rather than the ruling coalition.
Then there is the fact that the youth vote is not with Barisan. The category of voters who are below 40 years of age are largely anti-establishment and anti-government.
These are factors that will shape the outcome of the elections in Kedah.
While Umno and PAS are relying on their formidable party machinery for the last lap, Phahrolrazi said Pakatan is banking on what he calls “Gelombang Mahathir” or the Mahathir wave to win big.
The Mahathir name still has a magical effect in Kedah but can it translate into votes?
Umno is battling for survival in Kedah and PAS is aching to make a comeback. For Pakatan, it is more than just winning, it is a test of the magical appeal of the man they call Che Det.
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