KLANG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A former senior aide to ex-premier Najib Razak was on Friday (July 20) named the candidate for Barisan Nasional (BN) in a by-election to be held next month in Selangor, in a surprise decision by the opposition coalition.
Datuk Lokman Noor Adam, who was the Finance Ministry's strategic communications director, is also a member of Umno's decision-making Supreme Council. Najib headed the Finance Ministry until BN lost power in the general election in May.
The Sungai Kandis polls on Aug 4 is being closely watched as it will be the first by-election since BN was ousted in the May 9 general election.
Analaysts expect the by-election to yield clues on how Malay voters lean with regard to Umno and the two-month old Pakatan Harapan (PH) government led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Sungai Kandis is a Malay-majority seat comprising 72 per cent Malay, 16 per cent Indian and 12 per cent Chinese voters.
Umno-led BN needs to retain, or improve on, its percentage of votes received in May so that it could claim that the Malays remain solidly behind it as it tries to regroup as an opposition party.
The by-election was called following the death of the Sungai Kandis state assemblyman Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) due to lymphoma.
The late Mat Shuhaimi defended his seat in the May general election with a 12,480-vote majority in the four-cornered fight.
He polled 23,998 votes, or 55.6 per cent of the 43,165 valid votes cast.
The Umno-BN candidate received 11,518 votes, or 26.7 per cent of valid votes.
Another candidate from Parti Islam SeMalaysia got 7,573 and one from Parti Rakyat Malaysia polled just 76 votes.
Mr Lokman has been creating headlines recently with his new organisation called Pematau Malaysia Baru (New Malaysia Monitor), which has been critical of the PH government.
He has been organising peaceful protests against the government and in support of Najib in recent weeks.
Mr Lokman will stand against a candidate from PKR, Mr Zawawi Ahmad Mughni, a training consultant and an Islamic teacher.
Mr Lokman's nomination came as a surprise as most people in Umno had expected either the area's Women wing's chief Suhaila M. Zin or its Youth wing vice-chief Rafify Ramlan to be the candidate.
Nomination will be held on Saturday (July 21) and polling on Aug 4.