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Anwar Ibrahim

Whatever the outcome of the Manek Urai by-election, it will not be by a landslide majority. Both sides of the political divide seem to agree on this as they battle for what they say are just a small number of fence-sitters in the predominantly Malay constituency. According to Kelantan Umno chief Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, fewer than 15 per cent of voters were undecided when the campaign began and there is now under 10 per cent of votes up for grabs. Making up over 99 per cent of the 12,300 voters here, rural Malays are known for usually pinning their loyalties onto a familiar flag.

"In Manek Urai, there are a lot of resettlers here who came to toil the ground and found a better life. Those that were brought here by PAS will vote for PAS and those brought by BN will go for BN," said Tumpat MP Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar. The former PAS secretary-general said that while PAS was confident of a victory in a seat it has lost only once in six previous votes, he said that it would be difficult to increase the majority by a large margin. However sources in PAS Kelantan say that they are predicting a 2,000-vote win, an increase from the 1,352 margin achieved here by the late Ismail Yaacob in the 2008 general election. To achieve this, it has to bring back outstation voters to balance out the young votes.

Most of the youth who still live in Manek Urai are desperate for job opportunities and BN appears to have successfully played up its promise of projects here amid accusations that PAS is incapable of bringing development to the area. "There are about 1,900 voters outstation. Most of them are youth who have been in urban areas and because of that, mostly support Pakatan Rakyat," a PAS MP said. BN deputy chief and election director Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has also urged his election machinery to win the July 14 poll bit by bit. "If each day we take one per cent, we can win," he had said.

While his maths may not be accurate — the eight-day campaign will only gain BN 984 votes this way, which is still short of overcoming the previous majority — he made his point that every single vote will count in the seat it won by a mere 53 votes in 2004. The schedules of both PAS's Mohd Fauzi Abdullah and BN's Tuan Aziz Tuan Mat have also not been too hectic with a lot of ad-hoc visits being made rather than packed pre-planned events. Tuan Aziz had time yesterday to make an unscheduled stop at a parent-teacher association event after taking a mid-morning break at home while Mohd Fauzi even took time out to meet some bloggers.


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