Umno Penang confident of Malay voters returning to BN

Written by Regina William, The Edge

Umno Penang is confident Malay voters in Penanti would return to the Barisan Nasional (BN) fold, as witnessed during the Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang by-elections on April 7.

Umno Penang secretary Datuk Azhar Ibrahim, who is also the opposition leader, said it was only a matter of time before the Indian and Chinese voters too returned to the BN.

"With the brand of politics played by Pakatan Rakyat, especially Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) by forcing by-elections, voters are getting fed-up. 

"They are not happy with the forced by-elections and they would retaliate. We are confident of the Malay votes, and we will have to work on the Chinese and Indian voters," Azhar said on the sidelines of the Penang legistative assembly sitting.

In Penanti, which has 15,421 voters, Malays form 73%, Chinese 24% and Indians 2% of the voter base.

To a question if Umno was afraid it would lose and hence is considering not to contest, Azhar said the by-election was a waste of time and funds, hence Umno's reluctance to participate in the by-election.

He reiterated that it would make no difference to Umno if it won or lost the by-election upon contesting.

"We have 11 seats out of 40, and winning another one would not matter anywhere in the equation as we won't topple the government. Losing it also does not make any difference as it was not our seat to start with," he added.

Asked if Umno Penang was geared up to face the by-election, Azhar said they would wait for further instructions from the party leadership.

"We have not started our election machinery in Penanti so far, and as soon as we are informed one way or another of what the party decides, we will do the needful," he added.

He also warned that if the party decided not to field any candidates and Umno members stood as independents, disciplinary action would be taken.

His stand on the matter contradicts what has been recommended by Gerakan vice president Huan Cheng Guan, who suggested that if BN did not want to take part in the by-election, BN members should be allowed to contest as independents.

Azhar said Huan was entitled to his opinion, but Umno would not support any of its members standing as independents.