Barisan yet to convince young urban voters

(NST) – The middle-income group residing in urban Bukit Selambau — or that half of Sungai Petani town — did in Barisan Nasional's chances in the by-election.

They account for almost half the voter population in the constituency, with some 12,000 registered in the immediate areas surrounding this town.

They came out in droves to vote for Parti Keadilan Rakyat's S. Manikumar.

The big polling stations in Taman Ria Jaya, Taman Ria Selatan, Taman Bandar Baru and Sungai Lallang, where the bulk of the urban voters lived, accounted for the bulk of the PKR vote.

Party officials took delight in the win here but expressed concern over the way the ballot had gone in places like Bukit Selambau town, Kuala Sin, Kampung Sungkup Para and Patani Para Estate where BN scored better.
Kedah PKR election director Datuk Johari Abdul said the party was surprised by the turn of events in the rural areas. However, he conceded that Umno and MIC had done tremendous work bringing in the votes in these places.

"They pushed themselves and their machinery on the ground to get their message across."

Johari, who is Sungai Petani member of parliament, said the Chinese vote remained with the party.

However, Balik Pulau MP Yusmaidi Yusuf said PKR scored with urban voters because they had fielded a younger candidate.

"He is younger, well-educated and represents the aspirations of the middle-class."

Yusmaidi said Umno and BN had promised renewal and change but this was not reflected in the candidate.

"The party talked about reforming itself but instead fielded an older man," he said of Datuk S. Ganesan, 49.

However, there was one notable change in this election for BN, particularly Umno.

In two previous by-elections, Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu, the party's machinery was said to have failed.

"But here they worked day and night. The change of guard in Kuala Lumpur (with Datuk Seri Najib Razak taking over as prime minister from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) galvanised them. Dr Mahathir's (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) arrival may have put off some but it certainly motivated them," said an observer here.

The same could be said for the MIC.

Its aging 73-year-old leader, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, worked like a man half his age. He was holed up here for 20 days, from before the polls, and oversaw the work.

He did succeed — to a point: at least 40 per cent of the Indians who cast their votes in the estate area came back to the fold while some were swayed by the release of the two Hindraf leaders.

The MIC kept harping on how the community was neglected after one-year of Pakatan Rakyat rule.

All the work by Samy Vellu and BN will come to naught if the newly elected Manikumar and soon-to-be appointed state executive council member works hard attending to voters here.

Otherwise, at the next elections, BN could be back.