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Datuk Nasarudin Hashim, Umno Perak’s assemblyman for Bota, has quit the party with immediate effect and crossed over to PKR, citing the interests of his constituents. The former civil servant said that he had only made his decision today and would be tendering his resignation to Umno tomorrow. Coming on the back of Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) victory in the Jan 17 Kuala Terengganu by-election, this will be an additional fillip to Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s long standing plans to take over federal government.

“The decision of Datuk Nasarudin is critical, reflecting the sentiment of his voters, primarily the Malays in his constituency,” Anwar told a press conference at the party headquarters today. The PKR de facto leader said that this reflected the demand of the pulic and saw it “as the beginning of a new wave,” when quizzed over the significance of the move. This may not signal the mass defection that Anwar had promised but failed to deliver last Sept 16 in a bid to topple the five-decade old Barisan Nasional (BN) regime.

But coupled with the Kuala Terengganu win, it rejuvenates the momentum that has ebbed and flowed since the opposition’s huge gains in the 12th general elections last March. This now adds to PR’s majority in Perak which stood at three seats last year and was the subject of an attempt to lure defectors by Umno Perak. Losing an elected representative just two months before assuming leadership of Umno, BN and the federal government will be a blow to the notion that prime minister-elect Datuk Seri Najib Razak is the man to steady the ship come March.

Najib has however, persistently dismissed talk that the Kuala Terengganu by-election was a referendum on his impending premiership, stating that in the big picture, the loss of one parliamentary seat does not change much. But it indicates, as Nasarudin told reporters today, that there are issues in “the direction of the public’s support” and “the situation that exists now in Umno and its leadership,” which were the reasons for his defection. “This decision has been taken after a long study and consideration of the public’s interest in general, especially my supporters and voters in the state assembly area of Bota,” the former Parit MP said.

His decision will also be a boost to PR’s desire to gain crucial ground among the Malay electorate, who have been unsure of the PKR-led coalition’s commitment to the special position held by Malays according to the Federal Constitution. “I am confident that PKR will uphold and respect the rights that are enshrined in the Federal Constitution especially the position of Bahasa Malaysia as the official language, the sovereignty of the Malay rulers and the position of Islam as the official religion,” Nasarudin said, who was formerly chairman of Felcra Berhad.


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