PETALING JAYA: Umno’s strategy of highlighting Anwar Ibrahim’s alleged sexual issues in the run-up to the Kajang by-election will either backfire on the party or leave voters indifferent, said political analysts.
“The Kajang electorate is not your typical east coast kampung electorate. A lot has been said about the sex scandal already, and it’s been saturated,” said Dr Lim Teck Ghee, director of Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI).
“What voters want to hear is how the BN is going to improve conditions of life in Kajang and Selangor, rather than focus on any kind of personal smear campaign. I’m sure it’s going to backfire on BN.”
The analyst was responding to Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan’s remarks yesterday that the ruling coalition would expose Kajang voters to the ‘truth’ about the Opposition Leader, who is contesting in the by-election.
“His sodomy case with (his former aide) Mohd Saiful (Bukhari Azlan) and his video case… so the Kajang voters must be told about these,” Ahmad was quoted as saying yesterday.
The High Court had acquitted Anwar of the sodomy charges in 2012, but the government has since appealed against the decision. The hearing of the prosecution will be on Feb 12 and 13 at the Court of Appeal.
If the Court of Appeal overturns Anwar’s acquittal, it will not affect his Kajang candidacy nor his position as the state assemblyman should he win, as he can still apply for a stay of the decision and file an appeal at the Federal Court.
But speaking at an Umno closed-door briefing, Ahmad said yesterday that people should know and think carefully, as they could not regard Anwar as totally absolved and acquitted.
Professor Dr James Chin of Monash University said that Umno was better off using different angles, namely the wastage of public funds due to the by-election, which PKR had admitted to engineering.
“Using the sex angle won’t work. Kajang voters won’t care. BN did it before in the 2008 general election, in 2013, and it didn’t work.
“If it was effective as a strategy, then why would Anwar keep winning his Permatang Pauh parliamentarty seat? And Permatang Pauh is a rural area,” said Chin.
Voters in Kajang – a suburban town not as affluent as its neighbours Petaling Jaya or Sunway – would be more concerned with the rising cost of living rather than their leader’s alleged sex scandals, said Chin.
“Transportation and the traffic jam is a serious issue for Kajang voters. The main road that runs through the town also passes the KTM station, and it is always congested. There are also municipal problems as well.
“A more interesting angle for Umno to use is: ‘If Anwar comes in, will all these issues in Kajang be resolved?’” said Chin. Uphill task
Anwar is expected to have his hands full should he win the Kajang by-election, given that he already holds the position of Permatang Pauh MP as well as Opposition Leader.
Talks is rife that he is contesting the Kajang state seat to allow him to replace Abdul Khalid Ibrahim as Selangor Menteri Besar.
Should this become a reality, it may be an uphill task for Anwar to juggle his constituents’ concerns with his numerous other responsibilities.
However, PKR Selangor chairman Azmin Ali has told Kajang voters they should be grateful that Anwar, “a world class leader” had agreed to stand as a candidate there.
The Kajang state seat fell vacant following the resignation of incumbent assemblymen Lee Chin Cheh of PKR on Jan 27. The EC has announced that it would meet on Feb 5 to discuss the nomination and polling date.
The state seat comprises 38,965 registered voters. At the last general election in May, 2013, the seat saw a voter turnout of 87.9% with 541 spoilt votes. It has 48% Malay voters, Chinese 41%, Indian 10% and others 1%.
In the 2013 general election PKR’s Lee garnered 19,571 votes followed by Lee Ban Seng (Barisan Nasional-MCA) with 12,747 votes and Mohamad Ismail (Berjasa) 1,014 votes.
The three independent candidates who contested the seat are Mohd Iwan Jefrey Abdul Majib (249 votes), Ong Yan Foo (85 votes) and Mohd Khalid Kassim (83 votes).
Lee won the seat with a comfortable 6, 824 vote majority. Except for the MCA candidate all other aspirants lost their deposits in the polls.
Kajang is located in the eastern part of Selangor in the Hulu Langat parliamentary constituency. It has a 342,657 population, consisting 60.4% Malays, 19.3% Chinese, 9.7% Indians, and 10.6% other ethnic groups.
To date only Anwar Ibrahim has declared his candidacy to contest the by-election.
The by-election will not have a bearing on who runs the state as Pakatan Rakyat has 44 seats in the 56-seat Selangor state assembly. The remainder 12 are held by the Barisan Nasional.
Pledge a clean campaign
Meanwhile, PKR vice president N Surendran urged the Election Commission to take action against Umno over the ‘sex and smut’ campaign as proposed by Ahmad Maslan.
He said that Umno president and prime minister Najib Tun Razak must have approved such a campaign, and urged the EC to summon Najib for an explanation.
“It is a shame and embarrassment to our country that the prime minister has allowed this type of foul and underhand campaign to be conducted by his own political party.
“The EC must urgently respond and condemn Umno’s ‘sex and smut’ campaign plan,” he said in a statement today.
He also urged Najib and Umno to publicly withdraw their plans of a ‘sex and smut’ campaign, and pledge a clean and fair campaign in the Kajang by-election.
However when contacted, the EC said it has no power to stop any smear campaign prior to the nomination day of a particular by-election.
Its chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said that the commission could only bear responsibility during the campaign period.