KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is ramping up efforts to wrest Negri Sembilan from Barisan Nasional (BN) in the next general election, with its leaders saying the pact has identified Teluk Kemang MP Datuk Kamarul Baharin Abbas as frontrunner for the mentri besar post.
The Malaysian Insider understands that the PKR lawmaker has been singled out as one of the potential candidates to assume the top state post should PR topple the BN state government.
“He is a senior state leader, a veteran politician with years of experience. He is one of the frontrunners for the MB post should PR take over. It’s not guaranteed, but he is among the few Pakatan is considering.
“I don’t think PKR would have a problem with that, and the other parties would have to discuss before accepting it, but as of right now, he is definitely the main candidate,” a senior PR leader told The Malaysian Insider on condition of anonymity.
The PR leader said the pact’s shortlisting of the Teluk Kemang MP to take up the MB post showed that it was “prepped” and ready to win over the BN state.
“Negri Sembilan is in our sights, as we lost the state marginally in the last election. We’re not saying it’s a definite win, but we stand a good chance there,” the source said.
PR believes a marginal five per cent vote swing in four key seats in Negri Sembilan will be enough to topple the BN state government.
State PR leaders told The Malaysian Insider back in June that a win in the Pilah, Kelawang, Lenggeng, and Linggi state seats where BN won by wafer-thin majorities in Election 2008 would secure the coalition a simple majority in the 36-member state legislative assembly.
BN won Pilah by 1,258 votes, Kelawang (1,167), Lenggeng (1,285) and Linggi (1,575). BN won 52.6 per cent (178,048) of the state’s popular votes, while PR won 47.4 per cent (160,504) back then.
The ruling coalition currently controls the state government with 21 state assemblymen (Umno-19, MCA-1, MIC-1) while PR has 15 assemblymen (DAP-10, PKR-4, PAS-1). Should PR retain its current seats and win over four BN state seats, it would mean that PR would be able to control the state assembly with a 19-17 simple majority.
But Kamarul refused to comment on the matter, saying that “nothing had been decided or finalised” yet.
“I do not have a state seat, the matter does not arise,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Kamarul said that PR would launch its state-level manifesto in Negri Sembilan next month, which would include the Buku Jingga policy framework as well as “localised issues.”
“Perhaps then you can get a better hint of PR’s plans (for Negri Sembilan),” he added.
Kamarul is the sole PKR MP in the state. He won the Teluk Kemang parliamentary seat from the MIC’s Sothinathan Sinna Gounder by a majority of 2,804 votes.
Negri Sembilan state PR chief Anthony Loke said the issue of MB candidacy has not been decided yet, and told The Malaysian Insider that it was “premature” to pick someone right now.
“We are less worried about that right now. What we want to focus on is winning the state in the election. We can decide later once we win on who should be MB,” the Lobak assemblyman said.
Loke stressed that the DAP would “uphold the state constitution” and ensure that PR’s MB candidate would be Malay-Muslim.
The state has an estimated population of 1.012 million people, with 56.6 per cent in the urban areas, while the rest are considered rural folk. A total of 57.9 per cent of the state’s population are Bumiputeras, 25.6 per cent Chinese and 16 per cent Indians.