By Adib Zalkapli
SEBERANG JAYA, Aug 23 — With only three days before the Permatang Pauh by-election polling day, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is still leading in his attempt to return to Parliament.
Unofficial figures from political campaigners and observers put Parti Keadilan Rakyat de facto leader Anwar’s majority votes at around 10,000, slightly lower that that obtained by his wife former MP Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail who won the seat with a 13,000-plus margin.
Both PKR and Barisan Nasional are now intensifying their campaign to scramble for votes in the next 48 hours before the campaign period ends.
PKR national strategy director Saifuddin Nasution believes that retaining the majority of March 8 general election is within reach.
Although he declines exact estimation, his party campaigners are enthusiastic about surpassing Wan Azizah’s majority, with some of them claiming that achieving a 20,000-vote majority is not impossible.
They, however, realise that Anwar is facing a lot of problems, from the swearing on the Quran by the former deputy prime minister’s male aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who accused the politician of sodomising him, to the fuel price reduction announcement by the government.
BN chief campaigner Datuk Seri Najib Razak has also pulled a surprise last night when he want to a mosque here to swear that had never met murdered Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaaribuu. The deputy prime minister has been linked to the case by his detractors, despite repeated denials.
PKR youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin said his campaigners had been working hard to convince voters that the lowering of fuel prices was due to Anwar’s pressure on the government.
“The people are happy with the lower price but the people also knew that we have promised to reduce it to RM2 if we come to power. Lowering it to RM2.55 (from RM2.70) will not change the voters’ sentiment,” he said.
As for Najib’s swearing on his innocence in a mosque, Shamsul Iskandar said the Umno deputy president would use religion for political ends.
“If Saiful’s oath on the Quran is not accepted by the Islamic religious scholars and voters in the constituency, why would it work this time?” he added.
PKR deputy election director Fuziah Salleh is more concerned with ensuring all voters would go out to vote, as she is confident that voters who chose Wan Azizah in the last general election would not switch to BN.
Even with the odds still against him, BN candidate Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah is confident of winning.
He has said it before - on nomination day BN’s chances of winning was 60:40, a couple days later it was 55:45 and went down to 59:41 a few days ago and now is on the way up again.
By polling day, it should exceed 50 per cent and BN will win the by-election – that’s what Arif Shah wants to believe.
He also believes the reduction of fuel price will swing the votes. For him, the daring move by Najib to swear in a mosque last night will also give a boost to his campaign. “I can see that Najib was sincere when he took the oath yesterday,” he said.
Permatang Pauh Umno division secretary Ahmad Shahar Shuib is also confident that BN would win, saying that the party election machinery had been fully activated.
Situation in the constituency is reportedly calm but according to PKR campaigners, the number of police personnel has doubled since nomination day to 6,000, a ratio of one policeman for every 10 voters