Dr M says BN must contest Penanti by-election

(The Malaysian Insider) KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has urged Barisan Nasional (BN) to drop the idea of not contesting the Penanti by-election in Penang.

To do so, he said, would be to concede defeat to the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

The former PM does not seem to be on the same page as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who floated the idea yesterday of not contesting the polls.

“If it was in an Umno area, I am sure that we will contest. However, since it is in an Opposition area, we do not want to contest.

“But if we wait to contest only in Umno areas, then there would not be any Umno’s areas and we would not have to contest anywhere,” he said in Raub, Pahang today.

Najib had argued that contesting elections he claimed were unnecessary was a waste of public funds.

His idea appeared to have gained traction with many BN leaders voicing their support and accusing Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim of using elections for political purposes.

Since last year’s landmark general elections, BN has lost four out of five by-elections held so far to Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

The latest defeats, in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau, were particularly galling for BN as it came soon after Najib took over as PM from Tun Abdullah Badawi, the man who has been singled out for blame for the coalition’s poor performances.

Today, Election Commission (EC) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof was quoted by Sin Chew Daily as saying he was seeking a meeting with both BN and PR to urge them not to contest the polls.

The EC chairman echoed Najib’s call, but he did not cite any legal or constitutional provisions which would allow the vote to be called off.

Dr Mahathir’s latest remarks will be the latest test for Najib’s fledgling leadership of BN as the PM will want to assert his leadership.

The Penanti state seat has fallen vacant due to the resignation of Fairus Khairuddin, who also resigned recently as the state’s deputy chief minister amid graft allegations.

Penanti is a state seat which falls within Anwar’s Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency.

Yesterday, Anwar also welcomed Najib’s suggestion, saying he was happy if BN did not contest the vote.

Dr Mahathir said that when he was prime minister, Umno never withdrew from any election, including in Kelantan, a PAS stronghold.

“Winning or losing is a separate matter but if we do not contest then the other party has already won,” he said.

“History has proven that Umno can face giant powers, including the British in our struggle for independence.

“The fighting spirit of those days should be a lesson to present and future generations.”