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How close is the battle for Kuala Terengganu going to be? Pretty close, judging by results of a recent survey commissioned by Umno. Results of the poll in December showed that 48 per cent of the voters would support Barisan Nasional while 47 per cent were backing Parti Islam SeMalaysia (Pas). Five per cent of the voters were undecided.

But there is one caveat, and a major one at that. The polls were conducted before BN named Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh as its candidate and Pas picked Mohd Abdul Wahid Endot for the seat. Independent Azharuddin Mamat is also contesting the by-election.

Umno officials are worried that the campaign to portray Wan Ahmad Farid as an elitist politician, someone with little in common with the everyman, is gaining some traction. At a closed door briefing for branch leaders yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak reminded Wan Ahmad Farid on the power of perception and urged him to work doubly hard to get close to the voters on the ground.

Not a day has gone by in the past week without mainstream newspapers carrying photographs of the BN candidate meeting voters in humble surroundings. The implicit message is that the former Deputy Home Minister is not elitist but a man of the people. In such a close contest, he cannot afford the elitist perception to persist.

There are 80,229 voters in the constituency. An analysis of the March 8 elections won by the late Datuk Razali Ismail of BN showed that 53 per cent of the Malay vote went to Pas while 64 per cent of the Chinese vote went to BN. Chinese voters make up nearly 11 per cent of the electorate. The voter turnout on March 8 was 87 per cent.


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