IPOH, April 9 — He may not hold any Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) posts anymore, but Tambun MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah still casts a long shadow over his constituency.
Even after he left all positions in Umno and BN two years ago, Husni, a five-term Tambun MP, still commands strong support among the people of Tambun, thanks to a solid track record of development that he has brought to the area.
And even without his Cabinet post, many in Tambun believe the “Husni factor” will be enough for the 65-year-old to win a sixth term — if only he defends his seat in the upcoming general election.
Husni, an economist by training, has been Tambun MP since 1999. He previously held posts of deputy minister for international trade and industry, as well as deputy finance minister before becoming second finance minister.
In June 2016, he made the surprising decision to leave his ministerial and party posts, announcing that he had resigned as Umno treasurer, BN treasurer-general, Perak Umno deputy chief, and Tambun Umno and BN chief.
It was an impressive list of powerful positions, which led some back then to ask if this would affect his chances of defending his seat.
But two years on, voters in Tambun felt the foundation built by Husni’s service and character over the years would stand strong — regardless if he was a minister or not.
“Husni has an endearing personality. Even the Opposition can’t really attack him because of how close he is to the people,” said 51-year-old fruit seller Daud Ayub.
“We like him because he helps people,” conceded store owner Siew Kam Choong, 62.
“If he can help you, he will do so and it doesn’t matter what race you are. He increases BN’s chances here because of how much people like him.”
A restaurant owner who only wanted to be known as Mat, said he was slightly worried that Husni would not be able to allocate the same funding in Tambun after stepping down from his posts.
“There are some who have moved away from supporting BN, and this could make the race tight even if there is a three-cornered fight,” said Mat.
“But if Husni runs, he will get more support. Even if he doesn’t have as much allocations as before, I believe BN stands a better chance of winning if he stands or if there is a good connection between him and the candidate.”
Jageer Singh, the president of an NGO calling itself Tambun Sikh Affairs, said Husni’s development track record held him in good stead among the people of Tambun.
He cited the construction of new markets in Tanjung Rambutan and Chemor, as well as Husni’s efforts to ensure that ethnic Chinese pomelo farmers in Tambun obtained land titles for their orchards and financial aid for temples and prayer abodes.
“He helps the Indians, Chinese, Sikhs, and Malays equally,” Jageer told Malay Mail recently.
“Besides the new mosques and community halls, he has also helped build 24 village libraries here because he believes in empowering the people through education.”
“Husni is a leader who truly works hard and gives back to his community. Even when he was a minister, he would be in Tambun every weekend and people appreciate that,” he added.
Possibility of return
The Tambun seat has one of the largest electorates in Perak, with 96,437 voters. Malays make up between 60 and 65 per cent of the population, while the remainder are ethnic Chinese (25 per cent) and Indian (10 to 15 per cent).
The economic activities in the area include farming and trading, while many locals also work at industrial parks in Kanthan and Klebang located in the constituency.
With support from the public, the big question surrounding Husni is this: will he be defending the seat?
As speculation mounted about his comeback in February, Husni was quoted saying he was “ready and willing to go all out to ensure victory” if Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak asked him to to run again.
Sources close to Husni believe there is a high chance of him defending his seat. If he does so, they are targeting an increased majority, based on feedback from the ground.
In 2013, Husni had won by a 9,325-vote majority, an increase from his 2008 majority of 5,386 votes.
“The reception and feedback for his community programmes are very positive. For example, over 5,000 people attended a Lantern festival celebration held recently in Chemor,” said one source.
“Even after he stepped down from the ministerial and party positions, people still have a lot of respect for him. They view him as a man of principle.”