DATUK Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is probably one of the biggest names to have ever visited Julau in Sarawak.
The Deputy Prime Minister flew into Sibu yesterday and proceeded by car to visit a longhouse in Julau. She was accompanied by the rich, young and handsome Julau MP, Larry Sng.
Sng, whose father is a well-connected tycoon in Sarawak, is married to the daughter of another famous tycoon Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing.
You see, the rich tend to marry the rich in Sarawak, then they go into politics and become even richer.
Just a day earlier, PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin was also in Julau in her capacity as Housing and Local Government Minister.
It was a mix of business and politics for Zuraida because she was accompanied by several PKR leaders, including Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Datuk Rashid Hasnon, who is vying for a supreme council seat.
So what is it with Julau that is drawing all these PKR bigwigs to its shores?
For a start, Sarawak will be the final leg of the PKR polls this weekend, and Julau has the potential to decide who will be the eventual winner in the contentious fight between Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and Rafizi Ramli.
The membership of the Julau division had expanded overnight from 603 members to some 13,000 members in June.
Numbers matter in politics. And Sng, who is behind the membership boom, is the man of the moment.
Sng, who joined PKR after winning the Julau seat in GE14, is aligned to Rafizi, and everyone in PKR is looking to see whether Julau will save Rafizi from defeat, given that Azmin is now ahead by more than 3,000 votes.
But the trouble is that MACC is now looking into the Julau membership following complaints by some people that they were listed as members without their knowledge or agreement.
One of the complainants, according to a Sarawak newspaper, is a Barisan Nasional MP.
Sarawak will be a do-or-die effort for Rafizi, who has been a surprisingly strong challenger to Azmin.
Rafizi had expected to do well in Sabah last weekend, where his team was responsible for recruiting the bulk of some 20,000 new members.
It came as a shock to his team when Azmin won in Sabah by a majority of some 1,600 votes. It has resulted in the Rafizi team crying foul.
A PKR leader who was in Kinabatangan to help oversee the polls had texted his friend to predict a landslide win for Rafizi after seeing the long line for those intending to vote for Rafizi.
The procedure of having separate lines for supporters of both candidates was adopted because close proximity had resulted in clashes elsewhere.
“From morning to afternoon, the queue for Rafizi was so long. Imagine my shock when Azmin won by 13 votes,” said the above PKR leader.
A total of 1,621 people voted in Kinabatangan, but only 843 votes were valid. The rest of the votes were either classified as “doubtful” or “missing”.
The same complaints were also heard in Pensiangan and Kudat.
The Rafizi camp is alleging foul play in Sabah.
Rafizi expected a thumping victory in Pensiangan where the local warlord Raymond Ahuar worked hard for him. But he won only 700 votes.
Keningau and Tawau were also supposed to go to Rafizi. Instead, they went to Azmin.
The hardest blow was in Tawau, where Azmin is believed to have won by 545 votes, the biggest majority in the Sabah polls.
However, the Tawau results have been held back for unspecified reasons, and Tawau division chief Datuk Kong Hong Ming, a lawyer who is aligned to Azmin, has rubbished allegations of any misdeeds.
“I don’t know what gave them (the Rafizi camp) the idea that they are strong here.
“Tawau has long supported Azmin. Just because we don’t talk much or make noise, people think we are weak.
“Moreover, this is a party election. We cannot quarrel, we need to take care of the image of the party,” said Kong.
Rumours are rife that Tawau may have to undergo a new round of voting for the deputy president’s post.
“As far as I know, there is no decision yet on a re-election.
“But if there is, I want to say this – we are ready, we will fight to the end,” said Kong.
“Missing votes” have emerged as a leading issue in the e-voting system that is being used for the first time in the country.
There have been allegations of hanky-panky and manipulation. But those in the know say it is likely a result of human error, caused by people who are unfamiliar with using tablet devices to vote.
Allegations of cheating have been raised by both the Rafizi and Azmin camps, and usually when they do not do well.
Meanwhile, there is only one word to describe the PKR polls – messy.
The election has been riddled with problems from day one, when members went for each other with sticks in Merbok and chairs flew in Permatang Pauh.
Apart from technical problems with the e-voting system, there have also been allegations of illegal or phantom voters as well as money politics.
In many divisions, members who were ferried in to vote looked like they were not sure what they were there for.
The joke is that PKR went one up on all the things that it used to accuse the former government of doing in an election.
Elections expert and Unisel vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Redzuan Othman said PKR needs to set up a committee to review the election so as to avoid problems in the future.
“What troubles me more is the animosity I see in some places. The distrust between the two groups is very deep,” said Dr Redzuan.
Incoming president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is facing a party divided.
“It will be tough, but he is the only one who can mend the rift,” said Dr Redzuan.
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