PERMATANG PAUH: Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Ismail is now handicapped with her Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partner Penang PAS youth movement ‘downing tools’ in the campaign for Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat by-election.
The Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president is now left with her own by-election machinery and DAP to retain the seat that her husband Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and her have held since 1982.
PAS youth election machinery is known for its wide reach to the grassroots in any general election or by-election particularly in Malay rural areas as well as organising ceramahs for all PR parties.
With the handicapped, the odds for Wan Azizah to retain her husband’s majority of 11,000-odd votes in the 2013 general election is now fading given her personal touch with Malay voters in the constituency has eroded sometime ago, since 2008 when her husband took back the constituency.
Her campaign line – justice for Anwar – was the same in 1999 when Anwar was jailed for abuse of power and this seems to be the only theme that go down well with the voters with side issues Goods and Services Tax (GST), 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), corruption and abuse of power.
Wan Azizah needed PAS machinery to allow her to worm into the hearts and minds of Malay voters again after missing from the scene in Permatang Pauh since 2008 when she vacated the seat to allow her husband to contest.
Her return has split PKR as the party internal feud between her and deputy Azmin Ali is said to be still ongoing despite the united front they put up but the split has little effect on her campaign trail as Penang PKR is solid behind Anwar and her.
However, Penang PAS youth’s withdrawal from the campaign, the very backbone of the PR machinery that reaches the rural Malays is considered as a big setback for her given the grave situation she is in.
PKR’s own local election machinery is insufficient and not effective enough to woo PAS supporters and members who have made up their minds that the Islamist party has to continue implementing its goal – Hudud laws and Islamic state.
Going against the very basic of the Islamist party is considered as ‘infidels’ – in the seventies and eighties – but in the nineties and present, PAS leadership changed this to ignorance, lack of understanding and knowledge on Islam.
Wan Azizah needs PAS votes to add up to the Chinese votes the DAP has held for her that can maintain or increase the majority.
With her candidacy under question from her own party members where Permatang Pauh PKR members are no exception, PAS votes are considered crucial, not just an addition.
Selangor PAS has pledged to lend support with its state chief Datuk Iskandar Abdul Samad to bring in party members to help but this may create enmity between Penang PAS and Selangor PAS as their objectives are questionable.
A PAS member in Permatang Pauh questioned Iskandar’s motive – is he coming to campaign for his vice-presidency bid in the June party poll or indebted to Selangor Menteri Besar who is also PKR deputy president Azmin Ali for keeping him as state exco member.
Putting aside PAS and PKR internal problem, the fact stays that Wan Azizah is handicapped without PAS’ youth election machinery and this may reach to a crippling stage if Wan Azizah does not act fast to remedy the situation.
At present, PKR’s campaign events are well received although the crowd did not reach thousands but few hundreds given the wet weather and campaign started just two days ago.
However, this was before Penang PAS youth announced its withdrawal.
With the announcement, the crowd may reduce very much if the situation prolong till polling day on 7 May, Wan Azizah may not win, according to local political watchers, not qualified analysts, but old voters familiar with the political game in Permatang Pauh.