By Athi ShankarEXCLUSIVE BUTTERWORTH: The state Umno believes Barisan Nasional can win back the Penang government from Pakatan Rakyat in the next general election.
Its secretary Azhar Ibrahim is confident that Umno in particular could win more than the current 11 seats it won in the 2008 general election.
He cited Umno grassroots strength and the return of many rural Malay and Indian voters to the BN fold as the main reasons for his optimism.
“Umno is still going strong.
“Many Malays are abandoning PKR and PAS and returning to Umno because they realised they have been deceived by the Pakatan state government.
“They now understand the Pakatan political game,” Azhar told FMT in an exclusive interview at his office in Penang Regional Development Authority (Perda) here today.
The state seats currently under Umno are Bertam, Pinang Tunggal, Penaga, Teluk Air Tawar, Sungai Dua, Permatang Berangan, Seberang Jaya, Teluk Bahang, Pulau Betong, Bayan Lepas and Sungai Acheh.
The state seats it lost in the last polls are Batu Maung, Penanti, Permatang Pasir, Penanti and Sungai Bakap.
Indians back in BN fold
Azhar, the Perda chairman, also claimed that Indians were now returning to BN after deserting the coalition the last time, especially in the wake of the Kampung Buah Pala fiasco and Mak Mandin “Rumah Hijau” problem.
He is also optimistic that Gerakan and MCA could fare better in Penang the next time because both parties have managed to resolve their internal problems, which marred their last campaign.
He said the internal problems in MCA and Gerakan were the main reason the parties lost all the seats they contested in 2008.
He also blamed Gerakan indecisiveness in naming Koh Tsu Koon's successor as Penang chief minister during the pre-election period as another major reason for the BN electoral setback two years ago.
Three names – Dr Teng Hock Nan, Teng Chang Yeow an Lee Kah Choon – cropped up as Koh’s likely successor during the period.
Azhar said Gerakan’s failure to name any one of them to succeed Koh confused the electorate and affected public confidence.
However, now he foresees that since both parties have put their houses in order, MCA and Gerakan should be able to carry out a stronger campaign to win back some seats in the next election.
“Both parties need not win all their seats.
“They only need to win half of their seats and BN will be back helming the state government.
“I am confident Umno can win more seats the next time around,” said Azhar, the state opposition leader, who also took a swipe at Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, accusing him of behaving like a dictator.
“So many projects are being issued stop-work orders on his directives without any valid reasons,” he said.
He also accused Lim of being an unprofessional politician who personalised issues and exacted political revenge on his critics.
For instance, he said, he was referred to the Rights and Privileges Committee merely because “Lim could not stomach my criticisms”.
Azhar is facing a trial before the committee for allegedly uttering seditious remarks in the recent assembly sitting, an allegation he denies.
The committee held its first meeting on the case early this week.
Azhar also chided Lim for failing to resolve the compensation issue for nine village households of the demolished Kampung Buah Pala.
The nine has since filed court action to claim compensation.
Azhar claimed that Lim was taking revenge on them for criticising him during the village fiasco.
“The nine were merely standing up for their rights.
“But the chief minister has made it so personal,” said Azhar.