To KT voters, it’s the candidate, not the issues, who count

By Adib Zalkapli, The Malaysian Insider

After the Election Commission announced the date for the Kuala Terengganu by-election, Pas leaders were still finding it hard to name a suitable candidate for the parliamentary seat, resulting in the party commissioning two surveys.

In both surveys, Batu Burok assemblyman Dr Syed Azman Nawawi was seen as the best man to run for the seat, which fell vacant following the death of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Datuk Razali Ismail.

The decision to select Wakaf Mempelam assemblyman Abdul Wahid Endut was only arrived at on New Year’s Eve.

But BN had already decided on its candidate Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Salleh ten days earlier, believing that the Kuala Terengganu Umno chief is the best man to represent the constituency and that he was the least likely to cause a split in the party machinery as he has led the party division for two consecutive terms.

However the independent Merdeka Centre yesterday released the result of its survey on Kuala Terengganu voters, which revealed that 77 per cent of Malay voters would consider the quality of the candidate when casting their ballots on Jan 17.

“I have said this before, that is the reason why the issue of Wan Farid’s image came out prominently throughout the campaign,” Pas election director Datuk Mustafa Ali told The Malaysian Insider when asked to comment on the Merdeka Centre survey.

Since his name was announced as the BN candidate, the former deputy home minister has been busy shedding his elitist image and proving that he could relate to the largely rural Malays in Kuala Terengganu.

For some of the voters, their support for Pas is mainly due to the party’s candidate and not because of their dislike for Wan Farid’s perceived image.

“I don’t know both of them, but I prefer Wahid, he looks like a decent man,” said a villager, who only wished to be known as Rahman from Wakaf Mempelam, who admitted he was not aware of the personal attacks against Wan Farid.

“I just like Wahid, I heard he has been doing a good job,” he added.

Another villager, Mazlan Mamat who works in Kerteh about 100 km south of the constituency said his decision to choose Wahid was based on the Kuala Terengganu Pas chief’s service.

He also said that BN’s attack against the Perak state government’s decision to award freehold land titles would not anger the Malay electorates.

“The land is theirs, they have lived there for a very long time, so what’s wrong with that. I don’t see this as an issue,” said Mazlan.

On Wan Farid, he said that he did not know much about him.

“He is not from this village, so I don’t know his personality, I only heard what the people have been talking, but I really don’t know," he told Malaysian Insider.