KUALA BESUT, July 26- As attested by political observers, the Barisan Nasional (BN) did not face an uphill battle to retain the Kuala Besut state seat in the just concluded by-election.
The increased majority of 2,592 votes clearly showed that Kuala Besut albeit the Besut parliamentary constituency is still a BN’s stronghold.
The 12-day campaign during Ramadan did not dampen the spirit of the BN election machinery.
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu Socio-Economic Development Centre’s political analyst Prof Dr Ibrahim Mamat said the BN’s victory was expected from the outset after Tengku Zaihan Che Ku Abdul Rahman, 37, an engineer, was named as its candidate.
Tengku Zaihan appealed to young and old voters as he is seen as one of the second line leaders in the Terengganu BN although he has yet to make a mark in the coalition, said Ibrahim.
Ibrahim, who was present to observe the campaign and polling, said the BN machinery, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and assisted by Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, was well oiled compared to that of the opposition as it was supported by BN leaders and campaigners from all over the country.
The ‘Kuala Besut Bluer Than Ever’ slogan adopted by the BN by arraying events tailored to suit the holiest month of Ramadan – a period of prayers, fasting, charity-giving and self-accountability – was telling on the opposition as it touched the hearts of voters.
Ibrahim said the BN clearly understood the needs of Kuala Besut residents by announcing several development projects, including the Sungai Besut estuary deepening project and the RM250 million breakwater to turn Besut into an international tourism gateway that would create job opportunities.
“The politics of development is still relevant in Kuala Besut as residents are still hunger for economic progress,” he said.
Ibrahim said PAS delved on land and oil royalty issues, and the so-called rift in the state BN leadership as it was gunning for a hung state assembly, but it failed to provide a clear-cut development plan for Kuala Besut.
“Undeniably, the people of Kuala Besut are still indebted to ‘Tok Yeh’ (Idris Jusoh who is Besut MP and Umno division head and former menteri besar) and this also tilted the balance towards the BN,” said Ibrahim.
With Tengku Zaihan’s win, the BN reconsolidated its position in Terengganu with a simple majority of 17-15 as in the 13th general election (GE13) to deny PAS’ campaign for a hung state assembly.
The by-election has been necessitated by the death of assemblyman Dr A. Rahman Mokhtar of the BN of lung cancer on June 26.
He had won the seat with a 2,434-vote majority by beating Napisah Ismail of PAS in GE13 on May 5.