SEBERANG JAYA, Aug 28 — Just 45 minutes after voting ended at 5pm on Tuesday, Datin Latifah Asmawi knew her husband’s hopes of winning the Permatang Pauh seat were gone.
Based on estimated vote counts given by party officials and polling centre officials, she knew the battle had been won by the favourite, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
The New Paper met her at her Jalan Tenggiri home last night before catching up with her husband, Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah, at Sunway Hotel where he had just emerged from a press conference.
Both husband and wife could not hide their disappointment, though they tried playing it down.
Said Latifah: “By late afternoon, we expected it (the loss). When the polling stations closed at 5pm and each of them counted their votes... around 5.45pm, we already knew.”
Latifah, 45, said they were being kept updated. Initially, things looked hopeful of a “50-50” per cent chance of winning, as she had maintained throughout the day when we met her at several polling stations.
She said: “We had unconfirmed results for about 14 counting centres and at first, it was just a loss by 100 votes.
“Then, it became a lot, so I called my husband and said, ‘You better not go to the main counting centre.’ Then DPM (Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak) called to get him to attend a press conference instead at Sunway Hotel.”
She also said that a decision was made to pull back all the BN supporters heading to the counting centre.
She admitted that she was taken aback by Anwar's winning margin of 15,671 votes — more than his wife's majority of 13,388 in the March general election.
“We had realistic expectations but we never thought it would be by this much... We thought we could stand a chance of losing, but by less than 10,000,” said Latifah.
Similarly, Arif Shah said he was “slightly surprised” by the margin.
With head bowed, he said: “Right from the beginning, I was told that my battle was to reduce this majority, but I was more than confident that it was possible to wrest away that seat.
“But it was not to be... Maybe there's something better waiting for me... who knows.”
He added: “I thought that people were more concerned about the welfare of the state and their future, but instead they subscribe to propaganda and promises of my opponent.
“Still, I accept it's their decision.”
Latifah confessed that she had mentally prepared herself for a loss.
But if they knew that they could lose, why did Arif Shah continuously maintain to voters that he would win?
She said: “I can't just tell everyone that we are prepared to lose. We have to tell our supporters, workers and party machinery that we can win this because if not, nobody has the motivation to work.
”We were prepared to lose but we still want to carry out the fight... No one should give up.”
Her disappointment showed when she said she “cannot read people's hearts now”.
“When we go house to house, maybe in front of you they can say they support, but behind you, they may mean ‘ah, go to heck!’”
It had been a mentally and physically tiring experience for her.
At one point, she paused to calm herself, then said: “I gave it more than
100 per cent, this campaign. To say I'm frustrated is not it, I'm beyond that now.
“I can say that I really cannot understand what the voters want.” — The New Paper