PAS gunning for big win in Kelantan seat

(The Malaysian Insider) MANEK URAI, July 14 — Most political pundits have given Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) the edge in today’s by-election for a rural seat in Kelantan, the state controlled by the party, but it is not taking any chances.

The state’s Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who is PAS’ spiritual leader, yesterday declared polling day a public holiday for state civil servants to enable those registered in Manek Urai to vote. He has also sent personal voice messages to PAS members, urging them to vote.

PAS is anxious for a high turnout of at least 80 per cent to enable it to hold on to the seat with a respectable margin. The by-election was called after the PAS assemblyman died in May.

Manek Urai has about 1,300 out-of-town voters out of a total of 12,000.

Several hundred of these live in other parts of Kelantan.

“Every vote counts,” said PAS MP Dr Hatta Ramli, whose parliamentary constituency of Kuala Krai covers the Manek Urai state seat.

No taking chances, the canvassing goes on this morning in Manek Urai. – Picture by Danny Lim

PAS has held the seat for five of the last six terms since 1986. In the general election last year, it won with a 1,300-vote majority.

Although the election outcome will not affect PAS’ control of Kelantan, there is another issue at stake. It is a battle for Malay support by the country’s two largest Malay parties.

More than 99 per cent of the voters here are Malay; only 58 voters are Chinese and 28 are Indians. The by-election comes at a time when Malay unity and privileges are a hot topic.

PAS is in internal turmoil with its top leadership split, with one faction pushing for closer ties with Umno and the other against it.

The pro-Umno faction arose following fears that the party was becoming less Islamic due to pressure from its partners to moderate its stance.

And Umno has been suggesting that PAS has lost its way by preferring to work with the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP) rather than Umno.

Late last night, a new banner sprung up in the villages showing a picture of Nik Aziz shaking hands with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who was in Malaysia last month.

According to The Malaysian Insider website, the banner also carried a message criticising him for preferring to listen to MM Lee, rather than Umno.

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