They came from far and near to Permatang Pauh last night
This was the scene at the Pakatan ceramah in Seberang Jaya last night, attended by close to 3,000 people.
They shouted “Reformasi!” and “Makkal Sakthi” enthusiastically. For some, it was their first experience at a political rally. “I never knew it could be so interesting,” said a politically awakened middle-class resident of Butterworth.
Much of the discussion among the crowd centred on whether Anwar could improve on his wife Azizah’s winning majority of over 13,000.
One Permatang Pauh voter told me that he had heard from a reliable source that support for Anwar was currently running at 70:30 and that the Pakatan leader could improve on Azizah’s winning majority by a few thousand. “Even if it’s a dirty election, he could win by a 10,000-vote majority,” he insisted.
Anwar himself has called for caution, warning that more dirty tricks could surface between now and polling day. “Don’t be surprised at what else they could bring up.” He highlighted cases of certain people going around photostating the ICs of voters.
But Guan Eng’s declaration of a state holiday on Tuesday – thus allowing more voters to cast their ballots – should improve Anwar’s chances somewhat.
One political analyst warned that Umno could continue to play the racial game, feeding into Malay insecurities of being governed by a DAP-led state government. Penang is the only state in the peninsula where the Malays are in the minority; so the insecurity among segments of the Malay community in Penang may not be found elsewhere in places such as Kedah or Kelantan. It is this sort of insecurity that is being fed by unscrupulous campaigners with their racially and communally charged posters, banners and leaflets.
In the Pakatan’s favour, however, is the fact that low-income workers of all ethnic groups – especially the Malays who form a large proportion of the working class – are finding it tough to make ends meet. There are significant pockets of Malay and Indian poverty in Permatang Pauh and surrounding areas. The 15-sen reduction in oil prices is widely seen as too little too late. “Are you that cheap to be bought by 15 sen?” is the recurrent question that is being raised by Pakatan ceramah speakers.
The BN candidate Ariff also carries the baggage of his brother Amin, who has been implicated in the multi-billion ringgit naval vessels scandal. Amin is believed to be now residing overseas.
The component parties of the BN such as the MCA, the MIC and Gerakan are in disarray – and this is not likely to help the BN cause.
In contrast, the level of interaction and campaigning among Pakatan parties has been encouraging. About a thousand volunteers from PKR, Pas and DAP – in about equal numbers – converged on BN candidate Ariff’s Seberang Jaya stronghold for house-to-house campaigning from 8.00am to 11.00am today. “The response was encouraging but whether that will be translated to votes remains to be seen,” said one political activist who participated. A similar blitz is scheduled for 9.00pm today.
The big question is what kind of impact the “Saiful-swearing-on-the-Qur’an” episode has had on the electorate. Will they react with disgust or will they be swayed by the likes of Ezam, Khairy and Nalla? Many have indicated that they are fed up with or put off by the sumpah-menyumpah antics.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media have gone overboard with their BN propaganda. Look no farther than today’s edition of Utusan.
For Anwar, the main issues are national unity and the economy. He vowed to lift the economy from the doldrums within three months of taking over power at the federal level if given the chance.
On the ground, the inter-mingling of the various ethnic groups in the Pakatan campaign and among the ceramah crowds has provided hope to many that a new, more just, Malaysia – where everyone has a stake under the sun – is possible. It is a delight to see the level of interaction that is increasingly evident. Why, they even shout in protest in unison at the ever-circling police helicopters above! This is the united Malaysia that many have longed for.
“We have a dream,” said Anwar. “But it’s not an empty, wishful dream (mimpi khayalan). We want to actualise it and work towards it.”
Blog reader Karma reports from Permatang Pauh:
Again in Permatang Pauh, sitting in a coffee-shop, observing the enthusiasm shown by DSAI’s supporters. Chinese, Malays and Indians are showing a positive team spirit in calling for all people to vote for Anwar. They look so cheerful. Most BN stalls wre empty. BN supporters have deserted them.
Jeyakumar’s ceramah drew a crowd of more than 3,000. Among them were BN supporters who are disenchanted with Umno. Looks like many BN supporters are not doing Pak Lah any favours here. An Umno man quipped, ‘Giving Anwar a landslide victory will put pressure on Pak Lah to quit. This is what the majority of Umno people desire. if the winning margin is small, it’s a moral victory for Pak Lah. We don’t want this to happen. We’ll support Anwar in this by-election and make sure that he wins with a big majority.”
The Indians are fuming because of the (cases of) racial harassment going on in schools. They want to teach Hisham and the BN a lesson by again voting for Anwar.
The Chinese want a better opposition in Parliament. The economy is down, they say. Anwar is (seen as) the saviour as he is internationally known. Ariff is not the one who could do it in parliament. He is not charismatic at all. It has to be anwar. A middle-aged man said, ‘You see, out of fear for Anwar they have reduced the fuel price by 15 sen. When anwar goes to parliament they will reduce the price more. So let’s give our votes to anwar.’
The thrill of watching and listening to them goes on… I could also see some foreign reporters talking to the people here.
He goes on to add:
Pas supporters are doing a fantastic job here. They are championing victory for Anwar and openly declaring, “DSAI is our next PM of Malaysia.” Interesting to see Indians and Chinese mingling with Pas groups and together shouting, “DSAI for PM!”. A scene of muhibbah indeed. A senior Pas leader surmised, “This victory is going to see Anwar become the next PM.” He spoke with confidence and gave some good reasons why he believed so. Looks as if PAS and DAP are all out for Anwar to be the next PM.
Umno’s strategy backfired heavily. In the first place, Saiful’s drama should not have been used in the campaign. Most Malays did not like this, as they feel the Malays and the religion of Islam have been badly tarnished by this move. An elderly man said, ‘Memalukan orang melayu dan ugama kita. Taada modal lain ke?’
Most don’t even believe what the mainstream media is saying. Sad for BN. It’s too late though. An educated government servant commented, “Siapalah nak caya media BN ni? Asyik mengarut saja. Orang Malaysia bukan bodoh lagi nak disogok-sogok dengan dongeng. Berilah peluang pada semua. Ni tak, tak habis-habis cerita hal Saiful; siapa nak dengar cerita karut dia? Orang dah benci. Saya pun ada anak. Kenapa bikin malu orang Melayu? Dulu saya undi BN, kali ni saya tetap undi DSAI biarlah apa orang Umno kata…“
But blog reader “Zorro” (not the blogger Zorro) warns:
No… most of Anwar speech followers were people from outside Permatang Pauh…. I think 70 per cent of them…. Don’t be too confident…. Permatang Pauh people are more to Pas’ sentiment…. And most will not be going out to vote on 26 Aug 08…. Wait n see…. They don’t trust both Umno and PKR (because of DAP’s attitude).
Well, we’ll see next two days when the results are out…. Anwar will win but with a simple majority.