RANTAU, April 10 — Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) Rantau candidate may be Dr S. Streram but the hardest-working person on the ground since nomination day has been none other than Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
While Dr Streram has done his part over the past few days by introducing himself and engaging with voters in the semi-urban constituency, he faces a daunting task as his opponent Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan is a familiar face here.
He was, after all, the former Negri Sembilan mentri besar and three-term assemblyman for Rantau.
But as Dr Streram courts voters in the area, his efforts have largely been overshadowed by Anwar’s popularity, as the latter has effectively managed to draw far more attention while helping PH in the ongoing campaign.
Fifty-one-year-old Rantau resident Gazif told Malay Mail he is actually more excited to see what Anwar can bring to the table in the event Dr Streram wins the seat.
“He is the PM-in-waiting of course, I would be excited to see what he can do for the district. Let’s face it, although Dr Streram is representing us in the Dewan Negeri, people would be more excited to hear that he will work closely with Anwar,” he said.
For some locals here, the “joke” is that it is actually Anwar who is contesting the state seat, and not Dr Streram.
The PKR president’s itinerary for the week is packed, to say the least. Various meet-and-greets with different sections of the community, as well as large-scale ceramahs fill the Port Dickson MP’s schedule almost every day.
“It seems like Anwar is the one who is running for office in this election. He seems more at home compared to Dr Streram on the campaign trail,” said Mohd Hanif, 45.
This was made more evident when PKR chose to hold their 20th-anniversary celebration at Dataran Rantau on April 4.
The event saw most of PKR’s top brass and its elected representatives celebrating the party’s anniversary along with some 1,000 attendees comprising locals and PKR members nationwide.
Although some locals felt it awkward that PKR celebrated their anniversary in Rantau during the by-election, many admitted that they were taken in by the all-star line-up that graced their town that night.
At the celebration, Anwar, who personally picked Dr Streram to contest the by-election, explained why they had chosen the latter for the position, stating that the party intends to hold on to the principles of justice instead of choosing a candidate based on his creed and ethnicity.
This has been a recurring theme for the by-election. Anwar has taken great pains to explain to Malay voters why he chose Dr Streram, as well as refute Umno-PAS’ narrative that Malay rights have been eroded under PH.
Political analyst Azmi Hassan told Malay Mail that Anwar has to work doubly hard to ensure that Dr Streram wins the race as his own credibility and public image as the prime ministerial candidate is at stake.
“It is no secret that Dr Streram is Anwar’s choice albeit with some fierce opposition from PH. I think it is not too much to say that Anwar’s future as prime minister-in-waiting rests on the Rantau result.
“Not only must Dr Streram win, he must win by a landslide. If this happens, then Anwar will be regarded as possessing the qualities of a prime minister. If the result is otherwise, then Anwar’s political enemies not only in PKR but also PH will have good reason to say that he is not a suitable prime minister candidate,” he said.
“Anwar has no choice but to work hard to ensure Dr Streram wins the by-election. This is made more poignant by the fact that the PKR president often had to explain why the coalition chose Dr Streram for the seat.”
The analyst said that Anwar’s overshadowing Dr Streram is also good as the latter seems to be very “awkward” during the campaign in Rantau.