PETALING JAYA – A political analyst has suggested that Pakatan Harapan (PH) look at the Pekan federal seat in Pahang strategically instead of attempting to wrest it from its incumbent, Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Wong Chin Huat, of the Penang Institute think tank, said that although the Pekan seat looked gloomy for PH, it still presented a unique opportunity for the opposition coalition to hurt its opponent in the 14th general election (GE14).
“Pakatan Harapan must send someone there to distract Najib. PPBM can be good as it would be seen as former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s proxy challenge against Najib.”
Mahathir is chairman of PPBM and PH which comprises PKR, DAP, Amanah and PPBM.
Wong said a good candidate to field against Najib would be someone young, vibrant and bold.
“If a dynamic candidate is placed there, Najib will have to spend time in Pekan to prevent an accidental defeat. This will prevent him from campaigning all over the country all the time.
“Since no one is expecting Najib to really lose, a Pakatan Harapan candidate losing with an impressive vote share is already a moral victory.”
Wong was commenting on Pahang PKR’s Lee Chean Chung’s statement that capturing Najib’s parliamentary seat in GE14 would be extremely difficult, but not impossible.
Lee said he believed it to be possible because the opposition came close to defeating Najib in Pekan in the 1999 general election.
In 1999, PAS’s Ramli Mohamed lost to Najib, the then education minister, by 241 votes.
“If we did it once, we can do it again,” Lee had said.
Wong, however, said the 1999 results would be especially difficult to replicate since the seat had experienced significant electoral growth, from 26,055 voters to an estimated 54,000 voters at present.
“The growth in 2004 was due to delineation in 2003 while the growth between 2008 and 2013 happened without delineation,” he said.
“Clearly voters were selectively moved in to strengthen Najib’s base so you can’t use the 1999 result as the basis.”
Najib was first elected unopposed to the Pekan seat in 1976 when he was only 23 years old. Prior to that, the seat was held by his father and second prime minister, Abdul Razak Hussein, who passed away while in office in January 1976.
Najib has been Pekan MP since, except for the period between 1982 and 1986. In the 1982 general election, Najib ran for a state seat and became Pahang menteri besar for one term.
The fact that the Pekan constituency has more than 95% Malay voters according to the statistics department’s 2010 census could also potentially cause issues for the opposition.
Earlier this year, Mahathir alleged that Najib had cheated in order to win the Pekan seat in 1999.