Galas blow may speed up Kelantan succession plan

By Adib Zalkapli, The Malaysian Insider

After 20 years in power, yesterday’s Galas defeat shows Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and the first generation of PAS leaders that won Kelantan in 1990 can no longer mount an effective election campaign.

Led by state leaders Datuk Abdul Halim Abdul Rahman and Datuk Wan Abdul Rahim Wan Abdullah, the campaign to retain the Galas state seat was described as a failure from the start.

“It was top-down all the way. They just issued directives to ground workers, so there was no good communication,” said a PAS strategist who declined to be named.

Abdul Halim was formerly the Kelantan deputy mentri besar from 1990 to 2004 while Wan Abdul Rahim was first elected into the Kelantan assembly in 1995.

Another strategist from an allied party within the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) offered the view that PAS did not offer anything new to first-time voters, who mainly flocked to Barisan Nasional (BN) which ran a moderate campaign under Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

“They didn’t offer any hope, any plans for the future. That won’t wash with the new voters,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

The PAS campaign hurled allegations against the Gua Musang MP that shocked the public, accusing him of hiding vital information on Orang Asli affairs from the state government and distributing money from house to house to buy votes.

The outcome was embarrassing for PAS, as it lost in 12 out of 13 polling districts within the state seat. The Islamist party only managed to retain its stronghold of Sungai Terah with a reduced majority.

PAS also lost in Chinese-majority districts, which the party initially hoped would help them retain the seat.

“Their campaign was not focussed and the strategy was outdated. It just didn’t work anymore. I think the old leaders must go,” said the strategist, who was familiar with the campaign.  

With the failure to defend the Galas seat, which it won for the first time by 646 votes in Election 2008, the party is now forced to look at a future without the popular Kelantan mentri besar and other leaders from the 1990s.

The Galas campaign had exposed Nik Aziz’s inability to defend the state government’s inefficiency, from its failure to award land titles to the badly managed logging activities in the state’s highlands that cost PAS the Orang Asli votes.

The Islamist party’s Orang Asli votes dropped from 36 per cent in 2008, to about 18 per cent in yesterday’s polls.