ANWAR'S BY-ELECTION BID FOR POWER
In getting the crucial Malay vote...
Words are Weapons
THE arrowed barbs flew swiftly and fluently.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim used these words in a rally in Seberang Jaya recently: 'bangang' (stupid), 'bahlol' (foolish), 'bodoh' (idiot), 'celaka' (scoundrel) and 'sial' (damned).
In another rally, Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin described Mr Anwar as power-crazy, a hypocrite and a sellout.
The words are meant mainly for the Malays as this is what the battle for Permatang Pauh has become - the fight for the Malay vote. With the Indians and Chinese expected to vote for Mr Anwar, the Malay fence-sitters are seen as crucial.
And the weapon of choice in the battle - words - emotional, hurtful and personal.
Mr Anwar rarely used such strong words in his speeches before, but he has changed his style as seen in the rally a few days ago.
Mr Anwar told his audience that he had to resort to using such words because 'the Permatang Pauh people are a different lot', reported Bernama.
'They can't speak kindly and gently. They don't understand. To make them understand, I have to speak like this,' he said to his audience, who included children.
However, at another rally a few days later, Mr Anwar apologised to the audience for the use of offensive words and language.
'Azizah told me not to be so harsh,' he said referring to his wife, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is PKR president.
Mr Anwar will face Barisan Nasional candidate Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah and Hanafi Mamat, of Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia in the contest for the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat.
The seat became vacant when Dr Wan Azizah resigned as the member of parliament to make way for her husband to contest the seat.
Mr Anwar's rivals are no slouches in the word department either.
Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin who is campaigning for the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate called Mr Anwar hypocrite, reported the New Straits Times.
'If PKR is in power for the next five years, I'm sure they can sell the country. Anwar is a hypocrite of the highest order,' he told a rally.
And of course out came the bogeyman to swing the Malay vote - the US.
'He would also agree with US intentions to set up a naval base in Sabah. I obtained all this information from very reliable sources,' Mr Khairy said.
Spewing accusations against Anwar at another rally, he described Mr Anwar as power-crazy, reported the Edge.
But is the Malay vote so crucial that both sides are willing to sink to such depths?
The Star newspaper's Joceline Tan analysed it this way.
She said as the Chinese and Indians have not returned to the BN, Malay voters who have not decided will determine the margin of win for Mr Anwar.
These voters, she said, are still open to campaign persuasion and propaganda.
'The conventional wisdom is that fence-sitters or the swing group usually make up 30% of any voting group.
'But this by-election is not the usual election. It is complicated by issues of who will be Prime Minister, another round of sodomy allegations against Anwar and Saiful swearing on the Quran,' she wrote.
The PKR side insists that Malay voters 'tak makan' or have not swallowed the implications of Saiful's testimony.
But PAS central committee member Dr Mujahid Yusof told the Star: 'We're still not sure of the impact. Morality is a serious thing to the Malays and Saiful did swear on the Quran and he did it in a mosque.'
PAS is planning to capture the fence-sitters by bringing in its three ulama superstars, party president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, Mursyidul Am Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and famous spiritual healer Datuk Dr Haron Din.
They are depending on their ulama leaders to provide the Islamic arguments to sort out the sodomy and swearing issue, reported the Star.
Ms Tan wrote: 'Mr Anwar's aim for a bigger majority hinges on the Malay vote and he is very worried about this line of campaigning. He has repeatedly told his audiences that he is a real Malay as well as a Malaysian who stands up for all races.'
Perhaps the most telling quote about the Malay vote came from a Chinese Permatang Pauh voter who spoke with news website Malaysian Insider.
'Because this is a Malay seat. If Anwar wins by more than 20,000 votes, it will mean that the Malays here are anti-Umno.'.Should that happen, it would be a big blow to the present Umno-led Barisan government.
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Electric New Paper, Singapore