KT takes to the polls (Update 8)

By Debra Chong and Adib Zalkapli

(The Malaysian Insider) KUALA TERENGGANU, Jan 17 — Polling for the crucial Kuala Terengganu by-election began today as the 36 polling stations were opened at 8am.

For BN, this election is a must-win to prove that the party has recovered from March 8 political tsunami while PR has to show that it has not lost the momentum and the loose opposition coalition is still intact while winning the hearts and minds of the Malay voters.

At 7.40am, the road from Cendering to the Cabang Tiga school where Pas candidate Abdul Wahid Endut will cast his vote is very clear.

Dressed in a green-striped long-sleeved shirt over a pair of grey-green trousers and black leather shoes, Wahid arrived at his polling centre SK Pusat Chabang Tiga accompanied by his wife and five of his nine children about 10 minutes before 8am.


Pas and Barisan National supporters showing their support outside the school. – Pictures by Choo Choy May

He said he came early because "I want to be the first." He plans to visit all 36 polling centres later.


A small crowd of early bird voters had formed outside the school's black metal gates and surged in behind Wahid as soon as police on duty pulled them open.

A few voters were spotted carrying fans and umbrellas bearing the BN logo but were not stopped from entering.

Minutes later, a Pas by-election worker wearing a party vest was stopped from wheeling in an old woman in a wheelchair. The policemen on duty politely asked her to take off her vest before letting them in.

Speaking to reporters outside the school after casting his vote, Wahid said he did not want to predict the neck-and-neck race. "I don't want to predict anything. I hope the voters will be more politically mature."

He added that whatever the outcome today, he will be at the stadium where the result will be announced.

Asked about the Bandar state constituency where the majority of Chinese voters have traditionally voted BN, Wahid said confidently: "This time I think I have no problems with the Chinese voters."

Wahid said he contested for a parliamentary seat there 23 years ago and the support then and now is greatly different.

Commenting on the resignation of the returning officer amid a corruption controversy, Wahid said it was regrettable that corruption was still widespread.

He accused BN of manipulating "money, government machinery, and the media" in the Kuala Terengganu by-election. "It's a shame. Malu orang, malu."

While he was thankful the EC has acted responsibly, he added that the incident must serve as a lesson, especially to the EC. "If referee tak adil, not only players not satisfied, penonton also, the pengundi, not satisfied."

As the sun warms the earth despite forecasts of cloudy weather for today, BN and Pas supporters are growing bigger and more vocal outside the school where Wahid voted. Waving flags and posters of their respective parties and candidates, they fight it out to see which side can be louder and has more stamina.

Passing cars honk to show their support while police whistles also join in the cacophony. But everything is under control despite the noise.

Standing side by side despite belonging to different parties, they chant "Hidup Barisan! Hancur Pas!" and "Kalah Umno!" Handmade cloth banners hanged at the road divider, strung between shrubs, read "Insyaallah Saya Undi Pas" and "Ya Allah, berilah kemenangan kepada kami" followed by a cross next to the Pas symbol.

Nearby, an anti-Umno man stands holding an enlarged copy of a Malay tabloid with the headlines: "Tagih seks, eksklusif, Puteri Umno imbuhan baru kempen, inilah budaya Umno. Tolak BN."

BN's Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Salleh, who arrived before 8am at Sekolah Kebangsaan Bukit Besar, told reporters, "I feel good," after casting his vote.

The former deputy minister, who resigned from the federal post to contest the by-election, earlier visited his mother's grave, near his home.

"I have worked hard, I have faith that voters will make the wise decision to give me a chance," said Wan Farid, who was accompanied by his wife Datin Intan Baizura Abdul Wahab.

A helicopter circles low over the Bandar state constituency. Not many people have come out to vote in the morning but EC officers told The Malaysian Insider that on March 8, most voters cast their votes after lunch.

The weather remains surprisingly good but grey clouds loom over the horizon threatening rain later in the day.