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Is PAS candidate a threat to BN's hold on Rompin?

ROMPIN, May 4 (Bernama) -- After 13 days of campaigning for the Rompin parliamentary seat by-election since the nomination of candidates on April 22, the 53,294 voters will decide tomorrow as to who will represent them.

Is the PAS candidate, Nazri Ahmad, the son of a Felda Keratong 5 settler, near here, and Pahang PAS Youth chief who has been stressing on him wanting to carry the voice of the young generation who make up over 40 per cent of voters in the area, capable of being a threat to this Barisan Nasional (BN) stronghold.

BN is fielding Datuk Hasan Arifin who has lots of experience in politics and the state's administration.

Political observer Prof Datuk Abdul Halim Sidek opined that both candidates had their own strengths, hence creating a stiff contest for the seat.

Abdul Halim, who is secretary of the Political, Security and International Affairs Cluster in the National Council of Professors, said Hasan, however, had the edge due to his wide experience.

Besides that, Hasan, 62, is also a local, born in Kampung Ayau, Leban Chondong, here, and known to the residents because of his long-time involvement in politics.

Nazri, 40, a trader and second generation Felda settler in Felda Keratong 5, had his own strengths in terms of age and his understanding of the problems and aspirations of the young generation, said Abdul Halim.

"In my opinion, Hasan is a good and winnable candidate as he is close to the people but the fight shown by a younger candidate like Nazri cannot be taken lightly."

Abdul Halim said both candidates were seen to be working very hard to win votes and they should have taken this opportunity to correct all the wrong or confusing facts spread during the campaign period so that the voters could assess them clearly.

Since the campaign started, PAS has been focusing on two main issues - the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Felda, especially the housing problem faced by the second generation Felda settlers, considering that voters in close to 20 Felda land schemes in the Rompin constituency form 51.51 per cent of eligible voters in the area.

In fact, the two-day gathering of Felda settlers at Felda Keratong 4 previously touched on the GST while yesterday there was a talk on GST in Bandar Muadzam Shah.

BN was not to be let down, instead it aggressively countered all of PAS' claims and resolved to solve the house price issue faced by the second generation Felda settlers by reducing the price from RM125,000 to RM90,000 per unit and to introduce the rent-purchase concept.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) lecturer, Prof Dr Ahmad Atory Hussain sees BN as having a very good chance of winning the by-election based on the candidate factor in terms of experience in politics and administration.

Hasan was Pahang menteri besar from 1995 to 1999 and a former assemblyman for Tioman and Bukit Ibam in the Rompin parliamentary constituency, for four terms from 1990.

However, he said, the PAS candidate was giving him a stiff fight due to the current issue of GST.

"PAS' influence in Rompin is not strong, but using such issues and not local issues can still influence the voters," he noted.

Ahmad Atory said the BN by-election machinery was capable of explaining the issues raised by PAS, and he believed BN not only could win in the by-election but also to maintain its majority votes.

Since nomination day, Hasan has been focusing on local issues, especially those faced by the young generation including the housing problem of the second generation Felda settlers, his intention to assist young people through high-impact fishery activities, and to boost tourism and modern agriculture which could give them lucrative returns.

His appeal for the prime minister to review the house price for the second generation Felda settlers in Rompin due to their financial constraints bore fruit when last Saturday, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced a reduction in the original price offered from RM125,000 to RM90,000.

In the 13th general election, the incumbent Rompin MP Tan Sri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis retained the seat by defeating former PAS Muslimat (women's wing ) chief Nuridah Mohd Salleh with a 15,114-vote majority.

A by-election in the constituency is being held this time following Jamaluddin's death in a helicopter crash in Semenyih, Selangor on April 4.


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