KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 – Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein believes that a win for Tan Sri Isa Samad, a man who was once found guilty by his own party for vote-buying, in Bagan Pinang on Sunday will inspire change in Umno.
The Umno vice president argued that Isa, who is hugely popular in the constituency for his largesse while he was Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar, had actually energised party members and machinery that had been hit by several straight polls losses since Election 2008.
“It will have an effect in the sense that the spirit of the machinery is very high and I feel that there will come a time, a tipping point, where you will see the realisation of our members that Umno has to change and will change and is in the process of changing.
"That spirit of transformation and process of transforming has inspired a lot of us to actually work harder and a win in Bagan Pinang is actually a great assistance,” he told reporters after the opening of the University Tun Abdul Razak campus building at Capital Square here.
Hishammuddin contended that an Isa win would not affect Barisan National’s (BN) credibility among Malaysians.
“I think at the end of the day we have already said that the credibility of the wakil rakyat is with the rakyat and if the rakyat feels that Tan Sri Isa is the candidate for them, then who are we to judge?” he said.
A poll by the independent Merdeka Center released yesterday showed a whopping 87 per cent of voters surveyed disagreeing with the choice of a candidate previously charged with vote buying.
The result of the survey suggests that a majority of Malaysian voters agree with the view put forward by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Isa should not have been nominated as BN’s candidate for the Bagan Pinang vote.
The former PM has been a vocal critic of the nomination of the former Negri Sembilan mentri besar who was punished with a three-year suspension after the party’s disciplinary board found him guilty of vote buying during the Umno elections in 2004.
But Isa has proven to be a popular choice in Bagan Pinang, a BN stronghold where the ruling coalition can count on a large bank of postal votes from army personnel.
Hishammuddin said today that he was also surprised that PAS wanted that postal voting in Bagan Pinang to be stopped.
“I want to remind all parties that in every by-election, there are postal voters so why only now in Bagan Pinang is it being questioned? Why in other areas, where they have won the by-elections, the postal voters are not questioned?
"So this is clear that in the context of Bagan Pinang that when they see that the support of the masses is more towards us and this causes them to raise issues that were never raised before, like phantom voters,” he said.
PAS had demanded that postal voting in the Bagan Pinang by-election be stopped because they claim that the voter list being used was not the same as the one tendered on nomination day.
Hishammuddin pointed out that the election commission had already assured the public that postal voting was transparent and democratic.
“We are also worried for the voters if the process is not transparent. It cuts both ways,” he said.
The Bagan Pinang by-election was made necessary following the death of BN’s Azman Mohammad Noor on Sept 4.
It is situated within the Teluk Kemang parliamentary constituency represented by PKR’s Datuk Kamarul Baharin Abbas.
Apart from Bagan Pinang, Umno also won the neighbouring Linggi state seat in last year’s general election, while PR controls three other state seats in Teluk Kemang — Chuah (PKR), Lukut (DAP) and Port Dickson (PKR).
In March last year, Azman defeated Ramli Ismail of PAS, by some 2,000 votes.
BN is currently ruling the state with a simple majority after winning only 21 out of the 36 state constituencies.