KUALA KEDAH – April 20, 2018: While the contest for the Langkawi parliamentary seat is no doubt one of the most anticipated, for Kedahans the battle for the Kuala Kedah parliamentary seat is just as significant.
This seat on the Kedah north-west coast is synonymous with Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, the country’s father of independence who won three in a row starting from 1959.
Interestingly the constituency, at both parliamentary and state levels, is popular with medical practitioners.
In the 14th general elections on May 9, PAS is fielding newcomer Muhamad Riduan Othman, a 42-year-old pharmacist from Liverpool’s John Moores University.
Dr. Azman Ismail of PKR is defending the seat he won in 2013 by beating fellow physician Dr. Zaki Zaman Abd. Rashid of Barisan Nasional by 4,947 votes.
BN has yet to reveal who its candidate is.
The general feeling is that the ruling coalition must name some equally impressive candidates if they are serious about winning there.
Since its creation in 1959, the Kuala Kedah constituency had fallen to the opposition only 1999, 2008 and 2013 — three from 13.
“Young and enthusiastic, these are the qualities I want in a candidate and PAS has it,” said sugarcane juice seller who only wanted to be identified as Kak Yati, who hasn’t yet made up her mind on who to vote for.
“Who I choose depends on the candidate. Right now I’m inclined towards green (PAS but if BN places people like Tok Latt (former Kuala Kedah Umno division chief Datuk Latt Shariman Abdullah) then it would be a tough choice,” she added.
Latt Shariman’s name was mentioned a few times when asked about who BN should field. In 2013 he contested the Kubang Rotan state seat but lost to PKR’s Mohd. Nasir Mustafa by 1,044 votes. Latt Shariman was non-committal when asked if he would be contesting again.
A restaurant owner in Kuala Kedah who declined to be named is torn between PAS and BN.
“As a restaurant operator, I don’t express my support for any party openly but if I have to choose between the blue parties, I’d say the older one (BN) is a better choice.
“Why not light blue (Pakatan)? Well, not once in his (Azman) five years as an MP did I see his face on the ground. Not that there is much change here anyway,” she quipped.
The indecision among the majority of the Malay voters (78 per cent) in Kuala Kedah seems to suggest that the Chinese voters (22 per cent) will be the kingmakers there.
For the contest in Pengakalan Kundoq, one the three state seats in the constituency, Pakatan Harapan has named Kedah Amanah chairman Datuk Dr. Ismail Salleh while PAS is putting up its state commissioner Dr. Ahmad Fakhruddin Sheikh Fakhrurrazi.
Ismail is a former Alor Mengkudu assemblyman while Ahmad contested and lost in Tanjung Dawai in 2013.
In Anak Bukit, Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah will defend his seat for Pakatan Harapan. The former Kedah state assembly opposition leader jumped ship from PAS to Pribumi Bersatu last year.
He has never lost Anak Bukit since first contesting it, beating two Kedah Umno big guns in Kuala Kedah Umno vice-chief Datuk Abdul Mutalib Harun in 2004 and Kuala Kedah former MP Hashim Jahaya in 2008.
But according to the grapevines, he suffered a big trust deficit among his supporters after abandoning PAS, with some locals in Padang Hang saying they wanted to chop off his legs should he ever step foot there.
PAS has named newcomer Hamdi Ishak to try and wrest back the seat from Amiruddin.
In Kubang Rotan, both PAS and Pakatan seemed to be taking a risky move by naming newcomers. They are Omar Saad and Mohd. Asmirul Anuar Aris respectively.
A check with the locals there indicate that Asmirul is popular among the youths due to his role as a Bersih 5 rally coordinator for Kedah. Omar, on the other hand, has a strong influence among the older voters.
There is also the impression that when it comes to Chinese votes, BN is at the losing end.
Lai Peng Hong, who operates an RM2 convenience store, thinks that most Chinese in Kedah supported Pakatan because of the presence of the DAP in the pact.
He however explained that they do so not because they like the DAP but because they dislike the MCA more.
“A lot of us tried to approach them (MCA) for help but they were not very accommodating. Even Umno is a better choice for the Chinese here.”