Perikatan’s Kemaman win raises crucial questions

Mustafa K. Anuar

Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar’s landslide win in the Kemaman polls suggests PAS’ efforts to gain support from the state’s Malays are working. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 4, 2023.

THE Perikatan Nasional (PN) candidate’s landslide victory in the Kemaman by-election has helped its members, particularly PAS, further burnish its “green credentials” in one of its strongholds in the Malay-Muslim belt.

Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar won by 37,220 votes, gaining 64,998 ballots in a straight fight against Barisan Nasional’s Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor (27,778 votes).

The by-election was called after the Terengganu election court on September 26 nullified PAS candidate Che Alias Hamid’s victory in last year’s general election.

The big win suggests Malay voters in Terengganu – Kemaman in particular – are very much immersed in PN’s Malay-Muslim narrative, with PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan calling it a growing wave of support for PN.

Detractors fear the outcome would indicate religious conservatism and ethnocentrism – generally associated with PAS’ brand of politics – have been further entrenched. Such a scenario obviously does not augur well for a diverse society such as ours.

However, certain observers argued Samsuri, who was trained as an aerospace engineer, and other professionals in the party would be able to present an acceptable face for PAS, especially to non-Muslims in the country.

This explains why Samsuri has been touted as PAS’ prime ministerial candidate, as he is seen as less crass and combative in his style and rhetoric compared with, say, Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor.

Buoyed by his phenomenal performance, Samsuri declared his triumph was a stepping stone for PN’s return to Putrajaya, a political desire nursed by PAS leaders such as Abdul Hadi Awang for a long time.

It is hoped that, for one, Samsuri would bring a breath of fresh air to the Dewan Rakyat, debating matters of national and international significance such as food security, climate change, technology’s invasion of privacy and workers’ rights.

Let such conversations about helping single women get married and a lawmaker’s mischievous suggestion to visit Langkawi unclothed be a thing of the nightmarish past.

Can PKR and Umno win over people in the Malay heartland when PAS’ campaigns have proven effective? – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 4, 2023.

The Kemaman results also raise questions for the Madani government, particularly PKR and Umno.

The two parties are known to be competing with PN in terms of winning the hearts and minds of Malays in their heartland. The Kemaman debacle suggests narratives pursued by the duo failed to gain traction among the Terengganu people.

One also wonders to what extent PKR could try to be more Islamic than PAS, without consequently alienating the former’s non-Malay and moderate Malay constituents who have different needs and ideals.

Would this electoral failure not indicate the Madani administration would be better off focusing on the needs of the people, especially those struggling to make ends meet amid high living costs, irrespective of their political stripes and ethnicities?

There is also the urgent need to fix our education system and the economy if we are to compete with our neighbours, let alone other countries.

Indeed, Samsuri and friends are visualising the opportunity to form a government.

In the meantime, the Madani government still has its work cut out for it to meet expectations.

This is perhaps the right time for a cabinet reshuffle to ensure this country is steered towards meaningful reforms for the benefit of the ordinary people. – December 4, 2023.

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