Najib and Anwar shoring up support in Selangor

Both leaders trying to woo voters in areas where backing is weak


PRIME Minister Najib Razak and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim descended on opposite ends of Selangor yesterday, in efforts to woo the vastly mixed electorate of Malaysia's wealthiest state.

Datuk Seri Najib made a dizzying 16 stops in the densely populated urban areas where his ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) remains weak, while Mr Anwar spent half a day in the rural Malay farming belt that his opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is struggling to win over.

The arrival in Selangor of the leaders of the rival camps underscores the anxiety on both sides as Malaysia heads for its most fiercely fought election ever, on May 5.

Elsewhere, there was no shortage of drama.

Mr Najib's Umno party sacked 61 members for defying party orders and running as independent candidates, including the former chief of its women's wing Kamilia Ibrahim and former deputy minister Shariff Omar.

The opposition, meanwhile, resolved tussles that saw allied groups field their own candidates in seven seats - although Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) president Hadi Awang startled many by saying that his party was forced into the three-cornered fights because there were "devils" in Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

PAS, PKR and the Democratic Action Party make up the opposition alliance.

Across the country, candidates continued to work the ground.

In Johor, Higher Education Minister Khaled Nordin, the BN's likely pick for menteri besar, dropped by at a cooking demonstration at a kindergarten. In Sabah, State Reform Party Sabah president Jeffrey Kitingan told villagers that with voters evenly split in the peninsula, Sabah would play an outsized role in the election.

In Selangor, neither side has it easy. In 2008, 36 of 56 state seats went to the opposition, though one later went independent.

But while urban Selangor is controlled by PR, which has won over the mostly young electorate with its message of change, the rural areas remain with BN, which has a vast grassroots network.

Yesterday, Mr Najib started in the opposition-held township of Selayang about 20km from downtown Kuala Lumpur, arriving in a campaign bus plastered with photos of himself.

Wearing the blue BN shirt and a BN cap inscribed with his name, the PM, along with 22-year-old son Ashman, walked around the suburb, strolling through streets so covered with flags that the roundabouts were barely visible.

Several hundred people in BN shirts accompanied him as he popped into two banks and a hardware shop before snacking on nasi lemak in a coffee shop. He then went on to the adjacent township of Gombak - also opposition-held - and other areas before ending in the Selangor capital of Shah Alam.

The opposition had won these areas in 2008 with margins of around 10 per cent.

"I really feel that people are giving their support to us this time," said BN candidate for Templer, Mr Subahan Kamal.

Today, Mr Najib is flying to Sabah, where support for the BN is stronger.

Mr Anwar in turn headed to rural Selangor, spending half a day in the coastal farming belt where his support is low. The PR failed to win most of the seats in this area in the 2008 polls.

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