Saturday, March 1, 2008

TRENCH LINES: Take No Prisoners --- Just Seats…

With exactly a week to polling day, Kelantan, Terengganu and Penang are living up to their billing as the main battlegrounds where the only rule is: take no prisoners --- just seats…

IN PENANG: Politicains and analysts are finding it hard to read voters. The impending change in chief minister ship and DAP offensive in fielding its big guns have thrown the battle wide open…

IN KELANTAN: Datuk Awang Adek Husin appears to be gaining valuable ground for BN in the fiercest arena of the elections…

IN TERENGGANU: The situation has eased somewhat after pockets of protests over the choice of candidates but the squabbling has changed the shape of the battle a little…

KUALA LUMPUR: It's getting as unpredictable as ever in Penang; there's a hiccup in the Barisan Nasional camp in Terengganu; and in Kelantan, the battle is so hot, it may go down to the wire.

These are the signals being emitted from the ground as campaigning for the general election flashed past its midway point yesterday.

With a week to go before polling, the three states have lived up to their billing as being the hottest battlegrounds between BN and the Pas-PKR alliance in Terengganu and Kelantan and the DAP-PKR-Pas co-operation in Penang.

The biggest states where the bulk of the parliamentary constituencies are -- Sabah (25), Sarawak (31) and Johor (26) -- are in BN hands, as are Pahang (14), Negri Sembilan (eight), Malacca (six) and Selangor (22). BN is expected to win at least 90 per cent or 112 of these seats, accounting for more than 50 per cent of the 222 parliamentary seats being contested, giving the coalition a simple majority.

But there are rumblings in Perlis, because of infighting within BN, but not enough to cause an upset; problems within Perak's Kinta Valley which has traditionally been pro-opposition; and problem seats within Kedah and the Federal Territory. Even in these states, BN should win the majority at state and parliamentary levels.

The hot states are, in reality, Kelantan and Penang, as the BN is expected to ride out the hiccups in Terengganu, keeping control of the state government.

In Penang, politicians and analysts are finding it hard to read voters. The impending change in chief ministership with the decision by Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon to vie for a federal seat, coupled with the offensive by DAP in fielding its big guns, has thrown the battle wide open.Koh has not named his successor, creating uncertainty as voters do not know who will lead them if BN wins.A Gerakan leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "It is so unpredictable. The voters that I have met are keeping things close to themselves."This is especially the case with Chinese voters. Most say they know who they are going to vote for and nothing is going to change their minds. This is creating uncertainty and sending danger signals to BN."

In Terengganu, there are pockets of protests in several constituencies after five Umno division heads, who were incumbents, were dropped.The situation has eased a little after nomination day, as local leaders have tried to tackle the dissent.The problem is obvious in four parliamentary constituencies -- Dungun, Marang, Hulu Terengganu and Kuala Terengganu -- where incumbents Datuk Rosli Mat Hassan (Dungun), Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar (Marang), Datuk Tengku Putera Tengku Awang (Hulu Terengganu) and Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh (Kuala Terengganu) were dropped.This has changed the shape of the battle, with Pas hoping to capitalising on the lapse to win back the state it lost in 2004 after a five-year rule.

Kelantan, predictably, has shaped up into the fiercest arena between BN and Pas which has been ruling the state for the past 18 years.BN, which has named Datuk Awang Adek Hussin as the man who would be menteri besar if it wins, appears to be gaining ground in its bid.This, plus the announcements on handouts, is beginning to melt the hearts of Kelantanese, it is said. This week, the battle sharpens, as all parties have not much time left to convince fence sitters and convert those who have made up their mind.BN politicians say the last two to three days are the most crucial. It is not uncommon to see politicians rushing from one venue to another.This being the longest campaign period in 26 years -- 13 days -- and most are finding it hard to pace themselves.

ELECTION 2008: Island in the sun offers no shade to candidates - GEORGE TOWN: With a week to go before polling day, the million-ringgit question on the lips of many is whether the opposition is leading in the battle for Penang. The political climate here has been much like the weather. The scorching sun, which had become a curse to the people for the past few months, has given way to a cooler climate. Days start with a drizzle in the morning, followed by sunny skies which suddenly open up with pouring rain in the evenings. This is how all candidates have described their campaign. Privately, BN leaders have also expressed similar sentiments. The anti-establishment sentiment in Penang is being felt by coalition candidates in urban areas, where voters are more aware of the issues. -- MORE

ELECTION 2008: Terengganu BN rallying the disgruntled - KUALA TERENGGANU: In the past week Barisan Nasional, especially Umno, has been going all out to reconcile the staunch supporters whose favoured wakil rakyat have been replaced by new candidates. The party has used the period since the candidate list was announced on Feb 20 to rally disgruntled supporters who did not get their choice leaders re-nominated. -- MORE

ELECTION 2008: BN closing in on Pas in Kelantan - KOTA BARU: Barisan Nasional's drive to wrest Kelantan from Pas after 18 years is meeting fierce resistance but victory is within reach. As campaigning entered the midway stage, on-the-ground reports suggest BN was not too far behind. -- MORE

ELECTION 2008: 'Let Awang lead Kelantan' - BACHOK: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Barisan Nasional could get the support of the people to win Kelantan and had prepared for the outcome by naming a menteri besar. Abdullah said Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin was chosen to head the state government if the BN won the election as he was educated, experienced, capable and accepted by Kelantan Umno. "In the last election, we did not name anybody but the people guessed, based on who was then the state Umno liaison chairman. "This time, we named him early so that the people can know the future plans for Kelantan from Awang Adek himself," he said. -- MORE

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