THE audience was probably just 1% of what Dr Mahathir Mohamad would have drawn in the 2018 campaign.
But this was 2022 and some 200 is an acceptable audience for the two-time prime minister who now leads a smaller party and a coalition of small groups.
Yet, the 97-year-old persevered to campaign for 33-year-old Dr Nurul Ashikin Mabahwi who is battling four other women in a nine-cornered battle for Ampang.
The flag and poster war seemed more intense than the ceramah featuring Dr Mahathir as people trickled in and sat on white chairs under white marquees. Most were residents but there were a number from across the Klang Valley to hear Dr Mahathir speak.
An audience watched the scene from a basketball court next to a surau where men in skullcaps chatted but declined to sit under the marquees.
Nurul Ashikin, better known as “Dr Banjir” for helping Ampang residents during last year’s massive floods, is a town planner who in her own words, is from the Ampang slums of Kg Berembang.
She studied her way out of the perennially flooded slum to get her further education in climate science in Japan. Her dream was to use her education to benefit Ampang through the party of common folks—Dr Mahathir’s Pejuang—where she leads the young women’s wing.
Nurul spoke well and walked off the small stage to appeal to the crowd for support to make their neighbourhood a better place. She ditched her speech, she said, to speak from her heart.
She was confident of getting the youth vote especially in the Bukit Antarabangsa neighborhood and hoped Dr Mahathir could draw support from the older folks in Ampang.
But to listen to Dr Mahathir is to hear most of the campaign for the 2018 elections that his coalition won, thereby making him prime minister before he resigned in February 2020 as his party quit Pakatan Harapan to form their own government with their political foes.
He didn’t dwell much on this but reserved fire for Umno and PKR leaders— more repetition.
But he and Nurul did mention that Pejuang have not named any prime minister-designate although it’s generally accepted that Dr Mahathir would be the top choice among its 121 candidates.
Dr Mahathir did say though that the party was not expected to do well as political analysts only gave them a one-seat victory—his Langkawi parliamentary constituency—but he believed they could do better than that.
He, Nurul, and Pejuang will find out on November 19. – November 16, 2022.