ZUBAIDAH ABU BAKAR: Is this really about change? (NST 18/01/09).
IT was a missed opportunity. Barisan Nasional could have used the Kuala Terengganu by-election to redeem itself after the March 2008 general election setback, but Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh failed to defend the seat against Pas.
The Kuala Terengganu battle was not about who won but whether the ruling BN or the Pakatan Rakyat coalition held an edge over the country’s voters.
The by-election itself had no bearing on the balance of power at the federal level, where BN holds a more than comfortable 137-82 majority over Pakatan Rakyat.
Still, it was a must-win situation for both, for different reasons.
BN, with its confidence shaken after last March and wanting to show it had recovered lost ground, offered promises of reform and an impending leadership change. Pakatan Rakyat sought to prove that it still had the momentum it picked up a year ago despite cracks in its ranks because of differing views in the administration of states under its rule.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who led the BN campaign in Permatang Pauh earlier and Kuala Terengganu, while conceding the opposition its victory, said BN would learn from this defeat.
Pakatan leaders, on the other hand, attributed the win to their well-oiled machinery and coordinated campaign.
Pas by-election director Datuk Wan Mutalib Embong said: “Joint campaigning between Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Pas enabled us to make inroads in Chinese areas.”
PKR strategist Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said people were now convinced Pakatan could work together for a by-election.
“Our strategy to get PKR and DAP senior leaders to campaign in Bandar and Ladang, and Pas to concentrate on its strongholds in Batu Buruk and Wakaf Mempelam, worked,” he said.
Pas’ victory will be a boost for Anwar, who can now claim that his win in Permatang Pauh — a fortress of the former deputy prime minister’s for decades — reflected broad-based Malay support.
He will also claim that the tide is with Pakatan as it moves on to a possible by-election in Pensiangan and the state elections in Sarawak.
Pas’ victory will at least postpone its dispute with the secular DAP over hudud and the Islamic state issue, with neither party at a disadvantage over its association.
Prof Mohd Mustaffa Ishak of Universiti Utara Malaysia said BN must realise that people would only vote for it if the candidate was the right one.
“Elections are about popularity and perception. If one is perceived as unpopular for whatever reason, the party would struggle to win. What more if the opposition puts up a more popular or better candidate? This should be the main criterion for choosing a candidate in the future.
” More importantly, he said, BN should go on the offensive against Pakatan, but over more intelligent issues without excessive communal fervour.
Another analyst, Professor James Chin of Monash University, said the Chinese ground had shifted against BN. The contention that the non-Malay component parties of BN were “lackeys with no power” had traction among voters, he said.
But can anyone say for certain that the Pas victory was indeed a resounding endorsement by Kuala Terengganu voters of last March’s message of change?
OK, I know yer stumped with the ‘MMQ’ acronym. Well, trust me. After what happened in KT, there’ll be tonnes of these ‘MMQs’ coming from every ‘nook and cranny’ arm chair political pundits.
‘MMQ’ means ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’, and it’s a phrase coined in the U.S. commonly used to describe sports analysts who aspire to be credible with ‘hindsight’ predictions. Sort of like – “I told you so!”. In other words, plotting the game-plan after the outcome is known.
Anywayz, if we are to seriously addressed the matter of BN’s resounding lost at KT (hey, it was 628 ‘before’ and 2631 ‘after’ which is a 4.18 fillip factor within less than a year after GE12), when exactly should we begin to identify the right strategy to ensure the highest possibility of a successful campaign?
It’s getting the best person for the job with all other factors being common denominators between the opposing factions, like NEP, hudud, development, good/bad track record, etc and choosing the right candidate to carry the game-plan.
Here was my theory which I posed in a pro-establishment blog (ain’t telling where, ok) for which I didn’t receive a reply –
Could it be possible that in the run-up for nomination, PAS deliberately held back their ‘real’ choice whilst floating other potential names and in allowing BN to lead the game, it would somehow influence BN’s decision for WAF?
When WAF was chosen, PAS then continued the charade to induce BN to draw first blood and subsequently, exploit whatever weaknesses for their own strategy in fielding a ‘clean’ candidate.
It would explain the 11th hour choice by PAS, if it’s accurate.
If so, I think BN got duped, big time!
According to indications before nomination day, both BN or Umno and PAS, or at least their state leaders, recognised the mood in the people of Kuala Terengganu. Local Umno leaders heeded the mood but unfortunately for them they were overruled.
PAS local leaders heeded the mood which they assessed as not being too strong to carry them over completely but which they decided could be bolstered by a popular grassroots candidate.
They strategised and waited until after the BN named its candidate before springing their surprise. Meanwhile, they floated names of prominent PAS officials as possibilities – red herrings, some of them said.