MELAKA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - With less than seven days to polling day in the Melaka state election, campaigning has ramped up with the presence of political bigwigs from both sides of the divide.
These party leaders were actively reaching out to locals through various events in Malaysia's smallest state by land size after Perlis - despite a ban on political gatherings.
Political rallies, walkabouts and distribution of pamphlets directly to the public are not allowed, with the federal government saying this would prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases in Melaka, as seen in the state election in Sabah in September last year.
The only form of physical campaigning allowed is the use of loudspeakers from vehicles at fixed times and with a police permit.
Still, this has not prevented politicians from descending in droves to Melaka.
Former prime minister Najib Razak has been on his rounds in the state. He was seen having tea with local residents on Saturday (Nov 13) evening at a restaurant in Durian Tunggal.
Najib appeared to be making waves with his "Malu Apa Bossku" (why so shy, my friend?) slogan, with locals there eager to take selfies with him.
Later, he made his way to the famed Jonker Street for a walkabout where he was mobbed by an even bigger crowd.
"Crowd reception has been phenomenal," said one of his aides.
Analysts have attributed the use of the "Malu Apa Bossku" catchphrase as among the factors that led to Najib's Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition victories in by-elections at Cameron Highlands, Rantau and Semenyih in the past few years.
Najib has many programmes lined up in various wards in the state.
Among them is Tanjung Bidara, an Umno stronghold which is seeing Melaka Umno chief Ab Rauf Yusoh locked in a three-corner fight with deputy minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin and opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan's (PH) Zainal Hassan.
Another former premier, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, spent the night at a hotel in Bandar Hilir but he has been criss-crossing the state. He also chaired an event where all 28 of his Perikatan Nasional (PN) candidates signed an anti-corruption pledge as a commitment to fight graft.
On Saturday, he went to a mosque to support Lendu candidate Abdullah Mahadi, who is from Mr Muhyiddin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
PN media liaison representative Hafeez Yunus said Mr Muhyiddin had been in Melaka prior to nomination day on Nov 8 and that the former prime minister was in high spirits.
"He's here on and off, but basically, he's here in Melaka every day," said Mr Hafeez.
Mr Hafeez said Mr Muhyiddin was in a "fighting mode" and that PN would further ramp up its campaign this coming week. "It will definitely be more intense as he will reach out to more people," he added.
The campaigns of Najib and Mr Muhyiddin are being closely watched by observers who had described all this as a battle between two former prime ministers.
The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) president Wee Ka Siong also hit the ground running and is in Melaka nearly every day to lend support to BN candidates. MCA is an ally of BN.
Datuk Seri Wee is not only working the ground in seats with MCA candidates, but goes to constituencies where other BN component parties are contesting.
Apart from showing support to the candidates, Mr Wee is also meeting with locals to explain current issues to them, said party central committee member Mike Chong.
Also in Melaka was MCA secretary-general Chong Sin Woon, who came to boost the morale of party candidates. He has been making it a point to join each candidate on the ground, especially the three first-timers who are contesting in city seats.
"It has been MCA's norm to field a mixture of old and new candidates in all elections. It's the same this time around, where three new faces are being fielded in Banda Hilir, Kota Laksamana and Kesidang," he said.
Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) president Abdul Hadi Awang was in Melaka on Saturday after attending an award ceremony to mark the King's birthday.
According to one of his aides, Tan Sri Abdul Hadi is planning to visit all eight seats that the Islamist party is contesting - Duyong, Kuala Linggi, Taboh Naning, Durian Tunggal, Kelebang, Bukit Katil, Serkam and Merlimau.
PH president Anwar Ibrahim and his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail were in Melaka, too.
Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah, who is an ophthalmologist, gave free eye checks to locals.
She and Datuk Seri Anwar also attended a programme in Klebang to support PKR candidate Gue Teck.
PH's ally Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and his father Lim Kit Siang have been holding online talk shows.
PH, PN and BN are contesting all 28 seats in the Melaka election.
Voters will go to the polls on Saturday. Melaka has 495,195 registered voters, with 71.6 per cent of them aged between 21 and 59 years of age.