Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday made his first campaign appearance in the seat his key rival is contesting, and dished out a raft of initiatives aimed at making Langkawi more attractive to tourists and lifting locals' earnings.
These include a budget of RM100 million (S$34 million) for loans for local businessmen to build chalets, motels and shops, transforming Cenang beach into a bustling market like Bangkok's Chatuchak, and a motocross circuit for enthusiasts.
Taking a swipe at former PM-turned-opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad without mentioning his name, Datuk Seri Najib said he would refrain from "condemning, criticising and using abusive words", but instead speak about his plans to improve the quality of life of Langkawi residents.
"I should be able to because the person who opposed me is taking this approach, but I shall choose to speak prudently," he told an audience of several hundred people.
"Who has a better agenda? Who is more convincing? Who can really deliver the change and transformation that we yearn? That's the real, ultimate gauge," he said.
It was Mr Najib's third trip to the island, part of Kedah state, in recent months, but his first during the 11-day campaign for the May 9 General Election, which is set to be the country's most closely fought. He had previously rolled out development goodies worth RM 1.3 billion there.
Kedah, a Barisan Nasional (BN) stronghold, is Tun Dr Mahathir's home state. It is a key battleground in the former premier's bid for the Pakatan Harapan opposition alliance, which he heads, to break BN's grip on power. Observers expect Dr Mahathir to be elected readily in Langkawi, which he helped grow and where he is received fondly.
But Mr Najib is not sitting still. Yesterday, he met local businessmen and visitors at a packed open-air foodcourt and shopping area. Amid supporters' chants of "Hidup BN", or "Long live BN", a group of Muslim men offered prayers wishing him well. Some 3,000 coconut and Musang King durian seedlings were also given out to residents.
Meanwhile, Deputy PM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also campaigned in Kedah, making a whirlwind tour of Sik, Sungai Petani and Baling.
Deputy Defence Minister and incumbent Kubang Pasu MP Johari Baharum told teachers and students on Thursday the BN government is committed to serving them. Dr Mahathir was Kubang Pasu MP for 30 years.
"I was the one who took care of the area because he was PM and I was here all the time," Mr Johari told The Straits Times. "I think we have no problem winning the seat."