ROMPIN, April 22 ― The Rompin by-election will see a straight fight between Barisan Nasional's (BN) Datuk Hasan Arifin and PAS's Nazri Ahmad, the Election Commission (EC) announced this morning after nominations closed.
The announcement officially kicks off a 13-day campaign period before polling day on May 5.
The by-election was called following the death of incumbent Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis, a former minister and ambassador to the US whose popularity among locals had ensured his position remained unchallenged for 23 years.
The ruling coalition is confident it will retain the seat by fielding another respected veteran, especially against a much younger and inexperienced opponent from PAS which has struggled to gain a foothold here and throughout the state generally.
But there is concern within the Umno camp that while victory is all but assured, it may still suffer a symbolical defeat if it fails to add to or at least maintain the 15,000-vote majority from Election 2013.
Speaking to reporters after the nomination was officially closed, Hasan said BN will not be overconfident in this contest.
“We will work hard and God willing we can retain the seat,” he said.
Umno is aware of the widespread discontent over the government's controversial introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1 that caused the price of basic goods to rise, affecting low-income earners that form the core of the party’s support.
While Umno's top leadership have not commented on the matter, leaders like vice president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein have cautioned against taking the by-election lightly even if Rompin is a BN stronghold.
Hishammuddin has been tasked to oversee the ruling coalition's campaign here.
In the last general election, Jamaluddin retained the seat after defeating former PAS Wanita head, Nuridah Mohd Salleh with a majority of 15,114 votes.
Rompin has 53,294 voters, including 545 early voters.