KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — Will voters in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s home state of Kedah, which Barisan Nasional (BN) once lost in 2008, back Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the election because of his leadership?
Some believe so.
Universiti Utara Malaysia political analyst Azizuddin Sani said PH may just win Kedah in the 14th general election if PH chairman Dr Mahathir and party members can show clear policies to bring development in the state.
“I think PH has a chance of winning Kedah because of strong attachment of Kedahans with Tun (Dr Mahathir),” he told Malay Mail recently.
News portal Malaysiakini reported yesterday that Dr Mahathir, who leads the newly formed Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), will run in Langkawi, a rural backwater in Kedah that he transformed into an island paradise during his tenure as prime minister.
Azizuddin said Dr Mahathir’s influence in Kedah cannot be overlooked, adding that many still remember the latter’s contribution for the development of the country.
The pundit pointed out that the former prime minister, who was born in Alor Star, has been a household name in Kedah’s political landscape for decades.
Dr Mahathir’s legacy and contribution to the state can be found everywhere. There is even a Mahathir’s Birthplace, or “Rumah Kelahiran Mahathir”, that serves as an attraction spot for tourists visiting the northern state.
“I (even) suspect protest votes against BN and PAS will increase to win PH candidates,” Azizuddin said, when asked about PH going against BN and the Islamist party in the state.
PKR’s incumbent Kuala Kedah MP Dr Azman Ismail said PPBM will undoubtedly have an advantage in the state because the latter is regarded as a “hero” there.
“The coming GE is the best opportunity for the Opposition to take over Kedah as well as the federal government,” he said, referring to the general election.
But incumbent Umno assemblyman Datuk Ahmad Lebai Sudin and state PAS commissioner Ahmad Fakhruddin Syeikh Fakhrurazi shared a different view on the matter.
For Ahmad Lebai, PPBM and PH were the least of BN’s worries.
“I don’t think Dr Mahathir has any significance in the state anymore. People in Langkawi recently told me that they would not support him anymore after he left Umno.
“I think many PPBM members are going to lose their deposits in the coming election,” the Bukit Lada representative said when contacted.
Instead, he said, BN’s main contender in the upcoming elections would be PAS, especially in the rural areas.
“I won’t deny this…PAS is quite strong in the rural areas, but we are stronger in the urban areas,” Ahmad Lebai said.
For Ahmad Fakhruddin, PAS was stronger than it was in the previous election and this, he said, meant that the party was not worried with Dr Mahathir’s constant visits to the state to garner support.
“PAS is stronger and that fears BN and Pakatan. They (PH) can bring in the big names here, but I doubt it will give PPBM any benefit,” he said.
Outcome in Kedah hard to predict
Although Dr Mahathir may play a significant role in giving PH a greater win or even winning the state, the outcome of the 14th general election in Kedah is a difficult one to predict, Azizuddin said.
He pointed out that voters changed the state government twice in the 12th and 13th general elections. Kedah fell to PAS in 2008, but BN wrested it back in 2013.
“So it is not easy to surely say if PH is going to win, although I feel PH stands a strong chance of winning with Dr Mahathir,” he said.
Azizuddin has said that PAS was traditionally stronger in seats like Pendang, Pokok Sena, Jerai, Baling and Jerlun; while Umno’s strongholds were Kubang Pasu, Padang Terap, Langkawi, Sik, Merbok and Kulim Bandar Baru; and PH was generally stronger in urban seats like Alor Star, Sungai Petani and Kuala Kedah.
But this, he said, could all change depending on how well Dr Mahathir is able to inspire change with his newfound party.