Terengganu braces for a by-election, the first in the country just about two months after the conclusion of the 13th general election that saw the state winning just two seats majority.
Barisan Nasional (BN) won 17 of the 32 seats, which makes the state vulnerable to ‘hard knocks’ if a by-election is held as losing the seat would mean a ‘hung government’.
The by-election is to be called following the death of assemblyman for Kuala Besut, Dr Abdul Rahman Mokhtar, 55, of lung cancer this morning.
Dr Abdul Rahman won the May 5 general election with a handsome majority of 2,434 votes against PAS’ Napisah Ismail.
While the Election Commission is awaiting the notice of the vacant seat from the state assembly Speaker before deciding on the date of the by-election that must be held within 60 days, Terengganu BN is beefing up its campaign team because the state’s political climate is not very positive for the coalition.
Given the factionism in the state and the ‘old feud’ between Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said and former Mentri Besar who is also the Umno Besut division chief Idris Jusoh, outside onslaught if conducted ‘correctly’ may not be good.
Idris has been appointed as Education Minister 2 in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak’s new Cabinet.
Despite Besut being a stronghold of Umno, political development in the state has not been positive neither smooth as the ‘old feud’ still exists which was one of the few reasons that caused Ahmad’s appointment as Mentri Besar being delayed for a few days.
And that was speeded after ‘verbal threats’ issued that if Ahmad was not re-appointed, he might just bring two more assemblymen to ‘jump ship’ and caused BN to lose the state.
Terengganu PAS is not something the state Umno and BN can be comfortable with as the Islamic party with its president Abdul Hadi Awang holed up in Rusila, Marang, is a true force that is reckoned and recognized.
With veterans in Terengganu such as party secretary-general Mustapha Ali, Wan Mutallib Embong and and even Ulamak Council chief Harun Taib, the state BN is seen as ‘just a weak enemy’, what more with factionism within the state Umno still existing.
The main issue in the state centres around the Mentri Besar himself who is considered as ‘practicing cronyism’ which has the party split and influence divided and support declined, as seen from the May 5 general election result.
If a by-election is held, then firstly the candidate will have to come from Idris’ men because Ahmad’s choice may not be accepted by the locals.
In this situation, the by-election may not see Ahmad playing the leading role but it will be Idris as Ahmad’s presence may ‘distance’ the locals from supporting.
The situation is very volatile even with the 2,434 votes majority as May 5 was a general election where PAS’ forces are spread thin around the state.
A by-election is where PAS will focus all its strength only on the constituency and given the issue involved and infighting in Umno, the result may go either way.
If PAS wins, then the state may even have a unity government instead of a ‘hung government’ where a state election has to be called.
An analyst said the Election Commission could also not hold a by-election because there was a clause in the Election Commission Act Section 2 Part 5 which stipulates that a by-election need not be held if a death occurs within 60 days after a general election.
He said a new assemblyman could just be appointed by the ruling party to replace the deceased.