Malaysia Votes 2018

Malaysia election: Political rivals Najib, Mahathir venture into each other's turf

Datuk Seri Najib at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new station for the Fire and Rescue Department in Raub constituency, in Pahang state on May 3, 2018.
Datuk Seri Najib at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new station for the Fire and Rescue Department in Raub constituency, in Pahang state on May 3, 2018.PHOTO: BERNAMA
Tun Dr Mahathir speaking at a rally in the country's administrative capital of Putrajaya on May 3, 2018.
Tun Dr Mahathir speaking at a rally in the country's administrative capital of Putrajaya on May 3, 2018.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Pakatan Harapan's Tony Pua at a rally in Yong Peng last night. Masks of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose photo cannot be used on campaign material, were passed around. Barisan Nasional Youth chief Khairy Jamaludin during a walkabout in Seremban, Negeri Sem
Barisan Nasional Youth chief Khairy Jamaludin during a walkabout in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, yesterday.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Pakatan Harapan's Tony Pua at a rally in Yong Peng last night. Masks of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose photo cannot be used on campaign material, were passed around. Barisan Nasional Youth chief Khairy Jamaludin during a walkabout in Seremban, Negeri Sem
Pakatan Harapan's Tony Pua at a rally in Yong Peng last night. Masks of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose photo cannot be used on campaign material, were passed around. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF

Najib, Mahathir ramp up campaign in enemy territory with both wooing crucial Malay vote

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad went on the offensive yesterday, with each making forays into parliamentary seats held by the other's coalition.

Both were wooing the crucial Malay vote that will determine the outcome of one of the country's most closely fought elections.

 

Datuk Seri Najib, 64, launched a university campus in his home state Pahang, while Tun Dr Mahathir returned to Putrajaya, the two-decade-old administrative capital that was his brainchild.

In Raub, Mr Najib highlighted his ruling Barisan Nasional's (BN) RM200 million (S$68 million) contribution to building the Mara University of Technology campus.

"The setting up of the university has enabled many bumiputeras to hold important positions in the public and private sectors," he said.

Raub was a stronghold of BN member Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), which it lost to the Democratic Action Party's (DAP) Ariff Sabri in 2013. The May 9 election will again see Pakatan Harapan (PH) member DAP pit a Malay candidate - Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji - against an MCA candidate - former deputy minister Chew Mei Fun - in the Malay-majority ward of 57,000 voters where Chinese form over a third of the electorate.

Mr Najib, whose Malay-dominant party Umno leads BN, urged consensus within the multiracial coalition, which has seen bickering and internal sabotage over seats.

"Umno and the Malays support the MCA here; and in other places, MCA will support the Umno candidates. I urge you to set aside minor differences... We don't want small victories, we want to win the big war because we want to have a strong government," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir, 92, embarked on a gruelling campaign schedule on Mr Najib's own turf.

He stopped by Mr Najib's Pekan seat before heading to a Felda settlement in Bukit Goh. He topped it off with a rally in Putrajaya, the country's seat of government that he had built before he retired in 2003.

 
 
 
 

In the carpark of the city's iconic mosque, Dr Mahathir told the crowd of thousands that their financial woes were the result of billions being stolen from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad under Mr Najib's administration.

"On May 9, we will bring down this kleptocratic government," he said, to cheers from the crowd at the rally that ended at midnight.

He also told civil servants not to be afraid to vote for PH. Putrajaya has more than 27,000 voters, most of them Malay civil servants and firm BN supporters in past polls. If the opposition's much-hyped and much-needed "Malay tsunami" - a Malay vote swing away from BN - were to take place here, it could signal a sea change across the country.

Rally attendance, however, may not translate into votes on the day.

"I go to the ceramah (rallies) of all the parties to see what they have to say," said civil servant Saiful, 31, who declined to give his full name. "We are free to choose who we want."

PH's candidate, former lecturer Samsu Adabi Mamat, faces incumbent Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, a minister and Umno heavyweight who won in 2013 with nearly 70 per cent of votes. Parti Islam SeMalaysia's Zainal Abidin Kidam is also contesting the seat.

A recent poll by Merdeka Center showed that Malay support for BN has slipped from 53 per cent to 51.2 per cent in the five days since campaigning began on April 28. But this is still a clear lead over PH, which has seen its Malay support climb from 20 per cent to 27.8 per cent over the same period. Going by these figures, BN is well on track to repeat its 133-seat win in the 222-seat Parliament in 2013.

But going by last night's numbers at Putrajaya, political fortunes could well turn in six days' time when 15 million voters cast their ballots.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2018, with the headline 'Political rivals venture into each other's turf'. Print Edition | Subscribe