While DAP rallies here are drawing huge crowds, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was pitching to smaller groups in the state’s Malay heartland in a tight race for every vote for the May 5 general election. On the stump last night, the PKR de facto leader reminded the Malays that the community remained the poorest in the country despite Umno’s purported pro-Malay politics. “In the name of the Malays, they said, yet we remain the poorest while the nation’s wealth is concentrated in a few Malay Umno elites,” he told a crowd of 150 in Chembong, a Malay majority state seat south of here. Anwar’s presence in semi-urban Rembau, a known Barisan Nasional (BN) fortress that houses the state’s Umno caretaker mentri besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Mohamad Hassan, also drew enthusiastic response from a predominantly Malay crowd of about 2,000 strong.
Another testimony to the growing Malay support for Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in BN fortress state of Negri Sembilan is the huge Malay presence at a rally in Sikamat here where Anwar took the stage before an audience of 10,000. “This is where Malaysians rise to fight for what is theirs. This is the people’s awakening,” the opposition leader told the energetic crowd. The state’s PR leaders believe the federal opposition bloc has secured virtually most of the Chinese votes judging from the overwhelming attendance of its nightly rallies in predominantly Chinese and urban locations like Seremban and Rasah. Just a few days ago, a rally held in Rasah reportedly attracted close to 15,000 people while smaller rallies recorded turnouts of thousands in average.
Negri Sembilan PR chief Anthony Loke said the pact’s main focus is now on bagging at least 45 per cent of the state’s Malay votes while aiming to get at least 25 per cent of the community’s support in Umno’s bastions. The DAP central executive committee member added that the response it has received nine days into campaigning has led him to believe that the small Malay vote swing needed for an opposition win in key mixed semi-urban seats are achievable. “We have a real fighting chance to form the new government. The mood for change has intensified now,” he told The Malaysian Insider after taking the stump in Sikamat here last night. PR won 15 of the 36 state seats in Election 2008. It needs just four more to form the new government and is looking to zero in on Jeram Padang, Chennah, Pilah and Kelawang.
Among the major reasons said to be behind Umno’s reversed fortunes is infighting that has paralysed its polls machinery in key seats. Another key factor is the effectiveness of PR’s campaign in playing up issues like corruption and power abuse by the BN government, an Umno source told The Malaysian Insider. “They are playing up national issues. It’s no longer the candidates running down on other candidates. It’s all national issues and it’s working,” said an Umno leader. A ground survey on the reception to the issues resounded well with rural Malay voters judging from Anwar’s campaign trail deep in Negri Sembilan’s vast interiors here yesterday. Malaysia’s southern states have not seen any opposition win since Independence but analyst note that PR is now making inroads and is poised to wrest several more federal seats from Johor, Negri Sembilan and Malacca in this election.