Day 1, Round 1: Pakatan Rakyat

The Chinese have no qualms that the outcome of the Kuala Terengganu by-election rest in their hands. But would they take that bold step of giving the seat to the opposition? Day 1 of the campaign is too early to determine this.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Pakatan Rakyat was clearly the winner on Day 1 of the Kuala Terengganu by-election. Nomination Day saw an estimated crowd of 30,000 to 40,000 Pakatan Rakyat supporters against only 5,000 to 7,000 for Barisan Nasional. In spite of the mainstream media spin that reversed the figures, pictures speak a thousand words and the five pictures below tell all.

At 9.30pm, Anwar Ibrahim addressed an estimated crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 people, mostly all local Kuala Terengganu folks, at Ladang, not far from the Bloggers Operations Centre in Kuala Terengganu. Amongst those who also spoke at this Ceramah Perdana were Lim Kit Siang, Haji Hadi Awang, the Menteri Besar of Kelantan, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, and Mustaffa Ali.

Simultaneously, the Bloggers and a few DAP national leaders graced a dinner that was attended by more than 500 local Chinese residents. We went from table to table to shake the hands of the guests and saw many familiar faces amongst the crowd. The support of the Chinese was most overwhelming, and if the dinner crowd last night is a reflection of the Chinese support for Pakatan Rakyat, then the results of the 17 January 2009 by-election may yet pull a surprise for Barisan Nasional.

But this was only Day 1 and Round 1 of the campaign. We still have 11 more days and 11 more rounds to worry about. An early victory may just be a sign of Pakatan Rakyat winning the battle, but not necessarily that it is winning the war. Ultimately, it is winning the war that counts. You can win ten battles but the victor will be determined by whomsoever wins the war and not whomsoever wins the many battles along the way.

Today’s campaign will be door-to-door. Anwar Ibrahim will be officiating the Parti Keadilan Rakyat operations center at Gong Kapas and will visit 18 kampongs around Kuala Terengganu after which he will be doing a walk-about at the main bus stop and the wet market at 11.00am. The Bloggers will be covering the walk-about and we hope to upload the pictures later today.

Intelligence agencies and the BTN have informed Umno that it has lost Day 1 of the campaign and that efforts must be stepped up to ensure a Barisan Nasional victory. They realise they would not be able to win on a level playing field, so expect the Dirty Tricks Department to launch a series of dirty campaigns later today. What they have planned is not known yet other than they are not confident of victory and therefore need to resort to dirty tactics to turn defeat into victory.

The Chinese voters are fully aware that the Malays are delicately split 50:50 and that it will be the Chinese who will determine the victor. They have been told that the are the Kingmaker but the million dollar question is whom does the Chinese want as their ‘king’ representing them in Parliament as their Member of Parliament.

One issue raised by the Chinese is that they are not too confident that PAS is capable of running the state. Unlike PAS Kelantan, PAS Terengganu is not that sharp, laments the Chinese. And five years of PAS rule from 1999 to 2004 has proven this.

This has to be countered with the argument that the Kuala Terengganu by-election is not about choosing a new state government. The voters will just be sending ‘their man’ to Parliament and not voting to form a new state government. The Chinese must be reminded that the present state government will remain intact even if the opposition wins the Kuala Terengganu parliament seat.

The Chinese have no qualms that the outcome of the Kuala Terengganu by-election rest in their hands. But would they take that bold step of giving the seat to the opposition? Day 1 of the campaign is too early to determine this.

Nevertheless, as in any election, local issues are usually the determining factor. Are the Kuala Terengganu Chinese happy with their government? Do they feel that Umno and Barisan Nasional are just too arrogant and need to be cut down to size? Is it time to send a message to the ruling party that it can no longer take the Chinese for granted and continue insulting them, call them pandatang, threaten them with ‘another May 13’, and ask them to ‘go back to China’ every time they open their mouths and express unhappiness? These would be the factors that will decide which way the Chinese will vote on 17 January 2009.

I now need to go hit the streets and do a walk-about in Chinatown. We will update you with the latest events as they develop. Till later and stayed tuned as we report from Ground Zero in Kuala Terengganu.