KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 ― Voters in Arau are undecided who to choose as their member of Parliament because the turmoil among the political parties has put them in a precarious position.
Malay Mail spoke to voters in Arau and found that they are either fully backing incumbent MP and Barisan Nasional (BN) defector Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim or undecided who to vote for on November 19, polling day for GE15.
Shahidan's imprint in Arau is deep, having been the MP two separate terms from 1986-1995 and the most recent term which began in 2013 up until Parliament was dissolved on October 10 this year.
Malay Mail met a group of loyal Shahidan supporters who said they were former staunch Barisan Nasional (BN) and Umno supporters but were upset with its president Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi for not nominating Shahidan as their Arau candidate.
"In this area the only name that rings out is Shahidans," said 23-year-old Muhd Badrul Amin. "He is known as a generous and very open man. You have an issue here that needs handling. You don't need an appointment, direct to his house bro, all family like" Badrul told Malay Mail when met.
"If you're really close with him you can eat from the same plate too. He really cares about the welfare of the people," said 39-year-old Effendi Samam.
"There are many who are not going to support BN from now on including my mother because it will be ridiculous to support someone (candidate) we don't know. We accept what the Umno president has done but let's make it simple, when we needed Shahidan he was there for us so it'll be hard to move away from him," Badrul continued.
Both Badrul and Effendi were with a group of seven friends from around Perlis who extolled the virtue of Shahidan to Malay Mail. They said as far as the people here were concerned, whichever party he represents means nothing.
"Let's simplify matters. Shahidan puts people first and has developed the area so it will always be the man not who he represents for us," they said.
Shahidan is confident he can keep his seat in Arau after being left in the cold by his party. He joined PAS and their coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN) and when met at the nomination centre yesterday he was confident with his and PN's ability to win enough state assembly seats so PN can form the government in Perlis.
Perlis has three Parliamentary seats in Arau, Kangar and Padang Besar. It has 15 state seats of which Shahidan said he hoped PN could win at least eight.
The residents here are 89 per cent Malay-Muslim with the second highest demographic the Chinese and is the royal capital of Perlis and besides being an Umno's stronghold sicne 1974 apart from 1995-99 when PAS won.
It has a train station, a bus hub narrow roads and few schools but nothing much in the form of entertainment
First time voter and Pakatan Harapan (PH) supporter Biha, 24, will vote in Arau and said that there were some rural areas in Perlis that were not properly developed like Tambun Tulang.
The said these areas lacked an ATM, had no petrol stations and poor roads which would need attention and Shahidan after many years in office had neglected these areas.
"Fresh ideas are what we need and that applies to the state seats as well. I'd like to see this area more upcoming, have a bigger town as this area is slow paced. it would be nice to see more outdoor activities, sports centres and one stop centres like libraries and such," she told Malay Mail.
"I do feel a new candidate will have a chance as there will be many new and young voters who will want fresh ideas and a change of pace," she told Malay Mail.
For the upcoming 15th general elections (GE15) there will be 60,879 registered voters in Arau of which 1,812 are aged between 18-20 and 6,242 voters aged between 21-29.
Young voters are expected to make an impact if they turned out to vote and Malay Mail found some of these youngsters wanting a change but still undecided who to vote for as they were unfamiliar with the candidates from Umno and PH.
They however were aware of Shahidan's controversies and said they would decide who to vote for when it was closer to polling day.
Malay Mail met a group of 19-year-olds who were waiting for the train to make a trip to Alor Setar for the weekend since Arau was quiet.
Deen (seated right), and his friends Adam (seated left), Haziq (seated in the background) and Muhsin (standing) in Arau, Perlis November 5, 2022. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
"It'd be nice to find a leader who wants to help the people without expecting anything in return," said Deen, a 19-year-old studying in University Malaysia Perlis.
"It'd be great to see some sweeping changes here, some excitement, some flare things like this," he said when met at the Arau bus hub.
Deen's friend Adam, 19, said they find it difficult to make a decision on who to vote for as they can't decide who's going to keep their promises.
He did however agree with Deen that someone staying as an MP for a long time isn't good as they get too comfortable and could abuse their position.
"To add to that we don't know who the other candidates are, what they want to offer so I want to vote and will vote but most likely my decision will be made on the day before we got to vote," he told Malay Mail.
Shahidan has been with Umno his entire political career and his defecting so fast after realising he was dropped from the GE15 ticket made is uneasy for some voters in Muar.
Taxi driver who wished to be known as Madi told Malay Mail he didn't like the flip flopping and switching allegiances these politicians are doing nowadays.
"I'm in a household with eight votes, previously we all voted for different people but now we will vote for one person only and I'll tell you it will not be for Shahidan.
"Why? Because he switched to PAS just like that. I like the guys who were loyal like (Tan Sri) Annuar Musa and (Tan Sri) Noh Omar.
"They were dropped but you don't see them changing alliances. They're loyal," he said.
His friend who wished to be known as Amad said he worked in Arau for 20 years and felt that Arau was a small state that no one would kick up a big fuss if Shahidan did win again.
"The new fellas if they win good for them they can do whatever new things they want to try out but in such a small area like this I feel people will forget about this place once this drama is over and we'll be back in the same situation," he said.
Umno member, Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin is also competing in Padang Besar as an independent after he too was dropped by Zahid for this general election.
He is now also a candidate for the Titi Tinggi state seat as an independent, pitting himself against five others.
For his Padang Besar seat, he faces opposition from PN, BN, PH and Warisan.
Zahidi was Padang Besar MP for two terms in 2013 and was deputy communications and multimedia minister before the dissolution of Parliament.