Soap Opera At A Coastal Town, Or Port Dickson By-Election

Calm before the sun.

It is cheating really, for those writing about politics in Malaysia.

Because on days like these on Port Dickson beachside, the news writes itself.

Anwar Ibrahim has company for the by-election. Familiar company.

For weeks since the PD Move went public, the public has been going through the motions, from fatigue, mild interest, despair to actual horror.

If there was a maximum on turns a by-election could take only up to nomination day, this one has gone the extra mile. In PD the wrong mile, gets you with the wrong set of friends.

It may be poetic that after decades of Anwar intimating about the trouble Najib Razak once had, of the nefarious kind, in the coastal town, he’s getting a dose of his own vitriol.

It’s Saiful, again.

Six years of arrest/trials and four years of incarceration, his connection with Saiful Bukhari Azlan has brought him only misery, and now at the cusp of returning to Parliament, yet again, his old personal assistant comes visiting.

For clarity, there is no risk of Saiful overturning Anwar’s rearguard in this competition, but the psychological force he brings to reduce the race to taunts, may have damage beyond counting day, October 13.

There is so much pathetic about Saiful, it is an overkill to mention him. The fact he claims to be “independent” does not reflect on him as much as it does on the people “helping him” to contest. Saiful is a symbol, not an orator. There will be enough to go to town with his presence, and they are the sort willing to drag Malaysian politics to the bottom, to dwell in the cavities of moral disgust to get back at their enemies.

While a soap opera can never be oversaturated with the absurd, Malaysia does reach for the skies. Isa Samad, as colourful as they come, quit Umno to contest. A former state mentri besar, and did win an assembly seat (Bagan Pinang) in this holiday hamlet in 2009, he is recognisable.

PAS will get their votes in the form of Mohd Nazari Mokhtar. The PAS support is certain, plus the candidate being a retired lieutenant colonel in a army town sure raises the temptation. Trust Mat Sabu to be employed long term there for the campaigning to sell the Amanah brand for Pakatan, and to remind them he heads the armed forces.

Chill by the beach

The whole dynamics of Malaysian politics has been turned on its head and perhaps old formula have expired.

Won’t see much of him, or remember him, but PAS will get its pound of votes.

In BN rule, every by-election was a desperate chance for Pakatan to get more foothold in Parliament. Today, Pakatan’s federal grip does not hinge on this contest. The change devotees lose motivation, and many of them are the very super liberals Anwar asks the masses to rise against.

Trends are contagious, and with three by-elections in next door Selangor already with lowest turnouts in history, there is a huge risk of repeat. This is the first by-election where a substantial number of voters would be returnee voters (Like the guys who drive back to Kelantan to keep PAS in power). A noticeable section of PD live in the Klang Valley, will they bother with the short drive? And if they do bother with the drive, for whom are they driving for?

Will it be local boy, Isa after his storied disasters at Felda to drag away votes from Anwar? Or the disgust the Saiful crew will bring turn people away from voting day? Can PAS muster enough show they do have a grip over the religious?

And when all these come together, the local boy appeal, the soiled boy disapproval, PAS’ base, the disinterest of the super liberals and the continuation of low turnout, wreck Anwar’s brand?

He’ll win, but this is a battle of attrition for a longer term war. The Greeks to Troy had better odds of a smoother coronation.


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