KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — Although voter fatigue may be settling in after three by-elections since the May 9 general election, analysts said the crowded Port Dickson race featuring Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim may turn out interesting.
PAS is fielding a military veteran in the the Port Dickson by-election that will also be contested by former Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Tan Sri Isa Samad as an independent, former Anwar aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, Parti Rakyat Malaysia, and independent Stevie Chan.
“It is definitely the most interesting one out of all four we had since May 9,” Universiti Sains Malaysia analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian told Malay Mail.
“In one corner we have a PM-in-waiting, we also have an embattled former mentri besar who doesn’t have any machinery at the moment, a PAS man who is a military veteran and other independent candidates. It is exciting to see how things will pan out.”
The October 13 poll will be Anwar’s golden opportunity for a strong political comeback, thus paving his way to succeed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the eighth prime minister.
Since his release and full pardon in May, Anwar has reiterated that if he returns to Dewan Rakyat, he intends to focus on parliamentary reforms while giving full support to Dr Mahathir.
With his illustrious political career, Anwar now has his eyes set on the bigger prize. But this does not mean that his rivals are to be treated with contempt.
They are former Umno leader Isa; PAS candidate Lt Col (Rtd) Mohd Nazari Mokhtar, who is a 57-year-old Royal Malaysian Air Force retiree; former PKR Kapar Youth chief Ahmad Kamarudin, who will be representing Parti Rakyat Malaysia; Saiful Bukhari, who was allegedly sodomised by Anwar; and independent candidate Chan, who is a Twitter personality with over 8,000 followers.
Isa, particularly, is no stranger to politics and Negri Sembilan. He had previously administered the state for 22 years.
In a bold move, the former Umno vice president recently quit the party to face Anwar on his very own homeground.
While everyone seemed eager to give Anwar a run for his money, Barisan Nasional had announced that it will sit out this by-election, dubbing it “forced and wasteful”.
Sivamurugan said, however, he foresees the spotlight will only fall on “the big guns”.
“Although we heard from social media that the public favours the independent candidate, but the focus and the race will still be dominated by Anwar, Isa and Mohd Nazari.”
He said the campaigning strategy is critical to ensure the candidates appeal to the majority of Port Dickson folks.
“We may hear a lot of character assassination during campaigning, especially directed to Anwar, because at the same time there are voices (in the party) that are for and against him,” he said.
Sivamurugan said it eventually boils down to the type of leader that the constituents want.
Echoing Sivamurugan’s sentiment, geopolitical expert Azmi Hassan still believes that Anwar stands the highest chance of victory.
“I doubt Isa’s presence will put too much dent on Anwar’s majority win, although he claimed he is well-versed with PD voters. PAS, on the other hand, will likely gain the support of Umno voters.
“Umno said they will not help PAS in this poll, but sitting it out will likely make their supporters go for PAS instead. Not Isa,” he said.
He said the by-election is the perfect platform for Anwar to demonstrate to the public that he is indeed “prime-minister material”.
This, he added, can be done by raising national issues in his campaign.
“He need to raise issues such as the style of governance and how his would differ from Tun’s style. Some changes in terms of policy and the composition of his Cabinet are among those pertinent,” he said.
The by-election was called after incumbent MP Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah vacated his seat on September 12 to accommodate Anwar’s return to Dewan Rakyat.
Today is the official nomination day before Port Dickson heads for early voting day on October 9 and polling on October 13.
The constituency has 75,770 voters and it is also PKR’s only parliamentary seat out of five in Negri Sembilan.