Saturday March 8, 2008
X-factor decider for Kelantan
KOTA BARU: The focus for Kelantan, the only state held by the Opposition, is whether Barisan Nasional can wrest it away from PAS this time. At stake are the 45 state seats that determine who gets to rule Kelantan.
In 2004, the contest was very close, with a number of seats won by razor-thin margins of fewer than 100 votes.
PAS barely clung on with a simple majority of two seats, which was reduced to one after the Pengkalan Pasir by-election in 2005. One of the seats, Kemuning, was won by just two votes.
However, after the scare in 2004, PAS got its act together and has been aggressively registering new voters and shoring up support in hot areas. PAS has registered 26,305 new voters against Umnos 9,358 since 2006.
For example, in Pengkalan Pasir which Barisan managed to wrest from PAS in 2005, the Islamist party has since managed to bring in another 5,000 new voters. This means the odds are now in PAS' favour.
In Tendong, which was considered a safe seat for Barisan, PAS has played a strategic game by pitting Barisan incumbent Datuk Fauzi Mohamad against his second cousin Dr Muhammad Md Daud.
Fauzi, who is from the area, has a huge family comprising both Umno and PAS supporters.
They had previously backed him, but now, with another relative fighting for the same seat, the votes are going to be split, likely down party lines.
PAS has also been working hard in timber-rich areas like Kuala Krai which used to be a Barisan stronghold.
In 2004, Barisan swept all four state seats and the parliamentary seat in that constituency.
But now timber tycoons who received concessions from the PAS government are said to be backing the Islamist party.
Barisan is expected to sweep the three state seats in Jeli (Bukit Bunga, Air Lanas and Kuala Balah) and another three in Gua Musang (Nenggiri, Paloh and Galas).
Barisan has put up a strong fight in Kelantan.
Its top guns Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak have come bearing promises to develop the state as never before.
And to make Kelantanese visualise who would lead them to this New Kelantan, Barisan has even named its choice of Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin who is contesting the Perupok state and Bachok parliamentary seat.
Both have been traditionally PAS seats. In the last elections, Dr Awang Adek created a breakthrough when he won in Bachok.
The hot battle this election will be Bachok and Perupok where Dr Awang Adek is taking on two PAS heavyweights deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa and five-term incumbent assemblyman Datuk Omar Mohammed.
The X-factor will be the outstation voters who number around 29,000, and who are expected to surge back to the state today.
They could well hold the key to which way the vote swings.