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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Playing Santa Claus in Hulu Selangor

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid and Zurairi AR

KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — It is no secret that both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat are in a race to dish out goodies as they attempt to outdo each other in the Hulu Selangor vote, a crucial by-election for both coalitions since Election 2008.

For BN, it means steadily clawing back its way to a two-thirds parliamentary majority while PR needs a win to reassure its supporters that it remains strong despite losing four federal PKR lawmakers recently.
The Hulu Selangor vote was triggered by the death of its MP, PKR’s Datuk Dr Zainal Abidin Ahmad, who succumbed to brain cancer late last month.
Nomination day falls on April 17 and polling is eight days later. Legally, campaigning should begin after nomination but both the blocs had kicked off their campaign almost immediately after Zainal’s death.
PR’s elections director for the by-election, Selangor PKR Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had openly admitted that he was dishing out goodies as part of his coalition’s move to bolster its flagging momentum.
BN leaders have stuck to their time-tested playbook by thronging the Hulu Selangor seat with seismic development promises to tempt the electorate to overturn the slim 198 votes loss in Election 2008. The BN’s advantage is it controls all three states seats within the federal ward.
So how much have the two spent or plan to spend so far?  To do the maths, The Malaysian Insider made an informal audit based on reports of both the coalition’s spending spree in the run up to the official campaigning period.
Barisan Nasional:
It is without doubt that the ruling coalition, through the federal government, have the upper hand in the race.
From media reports, It is estimated that BN have proposed to spend close to RM60 million on various infrastructure projects.
First up in the list is the housing project in Gugusan Kampung Dusun worth RM32 million.
The project was announced by Prime Minister and BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak in a move aimed at ensuring the vote of  Felda settlers in the constituency. The settlers are considered the coalition’s vote-bank in the constituency.
Second up is the proposed development of three primary national schools, one secondary school and one Chinese school. No exact value is available but by conventional standards, the projects should cost a minimum of RM20 million.
Third on the list is the RM16 million worth of miscellaneous “infrastructure projects” that Najib announced in a walkabout event there. No details were given on what the projects are.
Another announcement made by the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is the flood mitigation project in Kg Sentosa, Batang Kali. The project is estimated at RM2 million.
And in what has become a standard election practice, the BN had also promised to repair mosques and public facilities within the constituency at an estimated cost of RM650,000.
Last on the list is the controversial announcement of a daycare centre made by Najib’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor. The Pusat Permata Negara will cost the federal government RM200,000.
Other projects announced are the provision of a hearse & facilities improvement for the Masjid Kg Sentosa in Batang Kali with an estimated cost of RM100,000.
Though BN leaders argued that the projects were already planned prior to the by-election, the announcements were made in the run up to the Hulu Selangor vote and will be perceived as a move to woo voters.
Pakatan Rakyat:
The ruling state coalition will not have the cash prowess of its political foes but will have the strength of the state government in its arsenal.
It has capitalised on the state government machinery and coupled with the power over land ownership which is a key issue in Hulu Selangor, will have an advantage over BN.
Khalid has been fully aware of this and has exploited the advantage by announcing that some 100,000 families, who have been occupying state land for more than 15 years, will be eligible for leasehold grants of up to 99 years.
The Selangor PKR chief also said that farmers working on land with temporary occupation licenses (TOL) would either given long-term rent options or issued grants.
Other goodies-giving moves made by the former corporate captain include land grants to 108 families in Ladang SKC Bernam and RM182,500 allocation for 73 senior citizens under the Mesra Usia Emas scheme.
Though no exact amount has been announced, Khalid’s government is expected to spend at least RM1 million for the Hulu Selangor vote.
The Selangor government have also temporarily shifted its office there in a move to be closer to the Hulu Selangor grassroots.
The amount spent by both coalitions so far, particularly BN, is testament to the Hulu Selangor by-election’s significance.
Observers say a win for BN signals a return of voter confidence towards the ruling coalition and Najib’s leadership which was recently boosted by a higher approval rating.
It could also signal the end of PR’s Election 2008 support momentum.


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