KUANTAN, Nov 18 — Once a stronghold as the only Barisan Nasional (BN) state to never fall in the election, Pahang has now come under siege by a surprising swing of support to Perikatan Nasional (PN).
In certain areas in Maran, Temerloh and Kuantan, PN flags and banners were more openly displayed than BN’s — even in certain Felda estates and villages dotted along the East Coast Highway.
The mood was also welcoming and happy, with their election booths active and receiving guests. In contrast, BN’s were mostly empty with less activity.
Earlier this week, a Merdeka Center survey had shown increasing support for PN and that the coalition could overtake the number of seats held by BN in the state.
“PAS is expected to sweep all the seats with 70 to 80 per cent Malay voters,” said Merdeka Center executive director Ibrahim Suffian.
Locals chalked this down to the influence of the Islamist party PAS which is now a PN component, and the internal scuffle within Umno.
“It is hard for Umno in most seats as voters switched to PAS due to their anger at the Umno president and leadership,” an Umno leader from Maran who declined to be named told Malay Mail.
Party flags are seen during election campaign in Bentong, Pahang, November 9, 2022. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
There are 14 federal and 42 state constituencies in Pahang.
In GE14, PAS won eight state seats contesting on its own, while the seats that the party lost with less than 600 votes were Cheka, Benta, Pulau Tawar and Kuala Semantan.
PN, via components Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and PAS, is also sure of retaining eight seats, including Beserah (under Indera Mahkota federal constituency), Tanjung Lumpur (Kuantan), Panching (Paya Besar) and Jengka (Kuala Krau).
Pahang has 42 state seats and in GE14, BN won 25, while Pakatan Harapan (PH) took nine.
The announcement that PAS deputy president Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man would be made mentri besar if PN wins the state also shifted support to the coalition, especially in the Felda area.
“People here have been through Umno all these while and now they wanted to see something different,” said Abu Dzar Abd Halim from Jengka.
The experience possessed by Tuan Ibrahim, who is also the caretaker minister of environment and water resources, is said to give more choice to the voters of the Cheka state seat.
Cheka has more than 90 per cent of Malay voters, and Tuan Ibrahim is expected to hold the advantage. His opponent there from BN, Lipis MCA chief Ho Fong Mee, is seen as an unknown candidate.
Tuan Ibrahim, also hailing from Kampung Batu Balai in the Cheka state assembly seat, is now being hyped as being close to the Pahang royalty.
A viral post about him being called to the Palace by current Yang di-Pertuan Agong to whisper the azan or Muslim call prayer to welcome the birth of the current prince in 1995 has also made rounds in social media.
This is despite the alleged scandal Tuan Ibrahim is embroiled in, after PKR deputy president Rafizi Ramli claimed that he had awarded a RM2 billion flood mitigation project after the dissolution of Parliament. Tuan Ibrahim has since sued Rafizi for defamation.
PN machinery workers met by Malay Mail in Beserah, Maran, Temerloh and Kuala Krau were also welcoming, reporting support they received not just from the constituents but from Umno leaders.
“Some Umno leaders openly campaigned for us in the election,” said a PN worker from Kuala Krau.
On November 13, Umno temporarily suspended two chiefs of women’s wings — from Arau in Perlis and Maran in Pahang — for allegedly directly or indirectly supporting PN candidates.
“The situation in Pahang is the same as Perlis now with local leaders angry with the top leadership,” said another PAS worker in Chenor.