In Manek Urai, a battle for the Malay heartland

(The Malaysian Insider) KUALA KRAI, July 6 — Both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) enter the Manek Urai campaign today knowing full well that it will test their credentials with perhaps the most important demographic group in the country.

Rural Malays make up over 99 per cent of the 12,300 registered voters in the state seat and as fate would have it, Ismail Yaacob's death on May 22 came at an awkward time for both coalitions.

The assemblyman's demise has sparked a by-election that will take place against a backdrop of months of mutual mudslinging over alleged betrayal of Malay-Muslim interests.

Umno had taken advantage of the crisis triggered by its Feb 5 power grab in Perak to accuse the ousted PAS-led government of "derhaka," or treason, against the decision of the Sultan in appointing a new mentri besar.

It also accused Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin of being a puppet MB to the Chinese-majority DAP in the state, a strategy that appeared to win back some Malay support in the Bukit Gantang by-election there, although BN was beaten as non-Malays backed Nizar strongly.

In recent months, PAS's internal battle over proposed unity government talks with Umno has also led to Umno insinuating that PAS was not serious about Malay-Muslim issues.

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