Najib says KT vote is not about him

By Adib Zalkapli, The Malaysian Insider

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak played down suggestions tonight that the Kuala Terengganu by-election is a referendum on his leadership.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is already planning to make the poll a test of support for Najib as he prepares to take over as prime minister in March, but the DPM said tonight the election could well be remembered as the beginning of Barisan Nasional's (BN) recovery.

But Najib will still be feeling the heat as BN election director as it is the first poll since the March transition plan was hammered out last October.

PR has already served notice of their intention of using the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu as ammunition for the campaign.

Five PKR Youth Wing leaders were arrested this morning for putting up posters with pictures of the slain Mongolian woman in what is clearly an attempt to discredit Najib.

The DPM has been trying to dodge links to the murder ever since his close associate Abdul Razak Baginda was arrested and charged for abetting the murder in 2006.

Tonight, the DPM brushed aside suggestions that a victory for BN in the by-election would be an endorsement of his leadership.

"I have heard so many thing about the by-election. Some said this is a referendum for me and some said this is a test for (Menteri Besar) Datuk Ahmad Said. They can make any speculation, but most importantly this election is for the people," said Najib to loud cheers from party workers when he launched Umno's youth, wanita and puteri wings' campaign machinery tonight.

In his speech, he declared that Kuala Terengganu would not be another Permatang Pauh, referring to the August by-election in Penang which saw Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim defeat BN's Datuk Arif Shah Omar with a big majority.

"This is an election that will test the BN's capability after the March 8 election. After we fell in Permatang Pauh, we pledged that Kuala Terengganu will be remembered as the beginning of BN's recovery," he said to thousands of party workers who packed the hall at the Islamic Civilisational Park, near here.

With a campaign platform themed 'People Friendly' Najib vowed that party leaders are ready to win the hearts and minds of the voters.

"I will be here for days to work with you and to ensure BN's victory," he said.

Najib also reiterated his promise that BN's candidate Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh, who resigned as deputy minister and Senator, in order to run for the Parliamentary seat would be reappointed to his post if he wins.

"The Pas candidate will not become a deputy minister," said Najib, referring to Pas's Abdul Wahid Endut, who is also Wakaf Mempelam assemblyman.

He admitted that internal bickering was the cause of BN's poor performance in the last general election and the Permatang Pauh by-election.

"We lost not because the opposition was strong, but we lost because we fought among ourselves," said Najib.

"In the last election some leaders kept the money meant for the election for the Umno election instead. We gave money for the party not for them to win the division chief's post," he added.

Tomorrow, Najib along with Wan Farid, will lead the procession of party supporters to the nomination centre.