SHAH ALAM, Nov 18 — It was perhaps telling that the most excitement Shah Alam has seen during the 15th general election campaign was when a 97-year-old came to lend his support to lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali, who is making a maiden attempt to win the seat for Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA).
Despite a slight drizzle when GTA chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad arrived at the Section 24 “pasar malam” or night market last week, many still took the chance for a photo with him as he spent around half an hour strolling and chatting with the public.
He even found time to buy some “ikan pekasam” or fermented fish from one of the vendors, before giving a speech at a “mamak” restaurant nearby.
But other than that, campaigning in Shah Alam seemed lukewarm as none of the major coalitions organised mega rallies or events that typically draw hundreds of supporters — despite the stature of the candidates and the perceived importance of the seat.
“We saw flags everywhere and sometimes the candidates will greet people at the shops and restaurant, but I did not hear of any big events here,” said R Tharma, a pharmacist and local voter, when met recently by Malay Mail.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (centre) visiting night market vendors alongside Pejuang’s Shah Alam candidate Muhammad Rafique Abd Rashid, November 9, 2022. — Picture by Radzi Razak
Khalid Samad passing the baton
Located in Section 18 of Shah Alam is a Tamil-language primary school named SJK (T) Sungai Renggam. Erected in 1937, it may be the oldest public building in Shah Alam. It has seen the area transformed from mere rubber and palm oil plantations to the country’s first planned township situated midway between the capital Kuala Lumpur and the ports of Klang.
Today, the city boasts almost a million people living and working in it, with the constituency named Shah Alam just one of the two federal seats encompassing the area.
As Selangor’s seat of power, it has been one of the strongholds of Pakatan Harapan (PH) since 2008 when the coalition took over the state government.
Khalid Abdul Samad, formerly of the Islamist party PAS when it was part of the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat and now in PH’s component Parti Amanah Negara, has held the seat since but this year will try his luck in Titiwangsa, Kuala Lumpur.
The baton to defend Shah Alam has now been passed to Selangor Amanah’s deputy chairman and former Shah Alam city councillor Azli Yusof, and voters appeared non-plussed with the transition.
“I think Shah Alam voters understand the way politics goes and would vote for people who they think could govern better than the last ones,” said Marzuki Ali, a retired professor and Shah Alam resident.
As Khalid’s former aide, voters do not exactly see Azli as an inexperienced fresh face.
“Azli is also Khalid’s former political secretary and he has been working closely with the constituency for more than a decade. It does not seem like Khalid left things unattended here,” said Abdul Rahim Idris, a local businessman.
Pakatan Harapan’s Shah Alam candidate Azli Yusof says he is confident he has the support of 70 to 80 per cent of voters here. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Pakatan Harapan convinced of domination
Besides the original plantation workers of Sungai Renggam and Bukit Jelutong estates, most of Shah Alam’s early settlers since it was earmarked for development in 1963 were made up of families who arrived from all across the country.
This has made it a predominantly Malay urban seat with about 77 per cent Malays, 13 per cent ethnic Indians and almost 10 per cent ethnic Chinese.
Long gone were the days when the Federal Highway was the only thing connecting Shah Alam with the rest of the civilisation, with the horrendous commutes to and from work dominating the daily lives of voters here.
Underneath the shadow of the state secretariat complex, civil servants and locals seen with envelopes and bunches of papers still had to park on the main road to go about their routines with the state government and agencies.
After work, residents could usually be seen hanging out in droves in numerous mamak eateries and coffee shops that litter the city, seemingly unbothered with the election
Despite the sombre mood, Azli has expressed his confidence and claimed that PH has the support of 70 to 80 per cent of voters here.
According to Azli, the percentage is based on the campaign he has been running for the past 10 days and he is confident that PH can retain the Shah Alam parliamentary seat on November 19.
“We have been campaigning for 10 days, from visits to surau, mosques, interactions with young people, also walkabouts in eateries, night markets, farmers’ markets and talks, 70 to 80 per cent showed support for PH,” he said at his office on Tuesday.
Azli will face two political heavyweights, one of them Barisan Nasional’s former Economic Planning Unit director and Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s special officer, Isham Jalil
Perikatan Nasional meanwhile is fielding former Penang executive councillor Dr Afif Bahardin who was raised in Shah Alam before graduating and serving as a doctor in Penang, where he is still the Seberang Jaya state assemblyman.