Analysts: Sex issue will backfire on Umno

Kajang by-election

Anwar Ibrahim’s alleged sex scandals are saturated and overused as campaign fodder, say analysts

Anisah Shukry, FMT

Umno’s strategy of highlighting Anwar Ibrahim’s alleged sexual issues in the run-up to the Kajang by-election will either backfire on the party or leave voters indifferent, said political analysts.

“The Kajang electorate is not your typical east coast kampung electorate. A lot has been said about the sex scandal already, and it’s been saturated,” said Dr Lim Teck Ghee, director of Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI).

“What voters want to hear is how the BN is going to improve conditions of life in Kajang and Selangor, rather than focus on any kind of personal smear campaign. I’m sure it’s going to backfire on BN.”

The analyst was responding to Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan’s remarks yesterday that the ruling coalition would expose Kajang voters to the ‘truth’ about the Opposition Leader, who is contesting in the by-election.

“His sodomy case with (his former aide) Mohd Saiful (Bukhari Azlan) and his video case… so the Kajang voters must be told about these,” Ahmad was quoted as saying yesterday.

The High Court had acquitted Anwar of the sodomy charges in 2012, but the government has since appealed against the decision. The hearing of the prosecution will be on Feb 12 and 13 at the Court of Appeal.

If the Court of Appeal overturns Anwar’s acquittal, it will not affect his Kajang candidacy nor his position as the state assemblyman should he win, as he can still apply for a stay of the decision and file an appeal at the Federal Court.

But speaking at an Umno closed-door briefing, Ahmad said yesterday that people should know and think carefully, as they could not regard Anwar as totally absolved and acquitted.

Professor Dr James Chin of Monash University said that Umno was better off using different angles, namely the wastage of public funds due to the by-election, which PKR had admitted to engineering.

“Using the sex angle won’t work. Kajang voters won’t care. BN did it before in the 2008 general election, in 2013, and it didn’t work.

“If it was effective as a strategy, then why would Anwar keep winning his Permatang Pauh parliamentarty seat? And Permatang Pauh is a rural area,” said Chin.

Voters in Kajang – a suburban town not as affluent as its neighbours Petaling Jaya or Sunway – would be more concerned with the rising cost of living rather than their leader’s alleged sex scandals, said Chin.

“Transportation and the traffic jam is a serious issue for Kajang voters. The main road that runs through the town also passes the KTM station, and it is always congested. There are also municipal problems as well.

“A more interesting angle for Umno to use is: ‘If Anwar comes in, will all these issues in Kajang be resolved?’” said Chin.

Uphill task

Anwar is expected to have his hands full should he win the Kajang by-election, given that he already holds the position of Permatang Pauh MP as well as Opposition Leader.

Talks is rife that he is contesting the Kajang state seat to allow him to replace Abdul Khalid Ibrahim as Selangor Menteri Besar.

Should this become a reality, it may be an uphill task for Anwar to juggle his constituents’ concerns with his numerous other responsibilities.

However, PKR Selangor chairman Azmin Ali has told Kajang voters they should be grateful that Anwar, “a world class leader” had agreed to stand as a candidate there.