KOTA BARU, March 23 — Although the date of the 14th general election has yet to be announced, you could be forgiven for thinking that campaigning has kicked off in Kelantan.
In the east coast state, party flags could be seen lining major roads as early as last month, as each tried to carve out a stake in a possible three-cornered fight in most constituencies.
In state capital Kota Baru, Malay Mail observed the flags of almost all colours are already up — from Barisan Nasional’s (BN) blue, PAS’ green, to their splinter parties Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (PPBM) red and Parti Amanah Negara’s orange.
In some places, Opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan flew the flags of all its components — including PKR and DAP — together.
MCA flags could even be seen along one road in the Kota Lama state seat, the only seat where the BN party is trying its luck.
A stretch of trunk road from Wakaf Bharu to Tumpat — a state seat under Kelantan exco member Datuk Che Abdullah Mat Nawi — saw a frenzied “fight” between blue and green flags.
Areas in Ketereh and Machang, which recently saw PPBM making inroads, were lined in red last month, before being overtaken by green this week.
In Kok Lanas, a state seat and BN stronghold, blue flags and banners lauding the ruling coalition were installed by the roadside.
But PAS had also erected a giant billboard in a busy intersection in the town, showing the faces of its candidates in the seat and Ketereh, the parliamentary seat under which it falls, along with party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob.
Yesterday, the Election Commission said it was not empowered to pursue political parties for prematurely installing flags and banners ahead of the general election, with its chairman Tan Sri Mohd Hashim Abdullah saying it was instead the local authorities’ responsibility to act against offenders.
Datuk Fattah Mahmood, the Kelantan state exco of local governments, did not answer queries when asked if the Kelantan municipal councils will act on the premature flag wars.
“I will have to check with the local councils,” he told Malay Mail in a text message.
However, his fellow exco member Che Abdullah insisted that the flags were not erected as part of election campaigning, but to commemorate party annual general meetings and welcome party leaders to the areas during such events.
“Any areas which held their own AGM, they welcome the guests with the flags We don’t purposely do it because of the elections, we even do it during normal times,” he said in an interview.