MASJID TANAH : Datuk Seri Sulaiman Md Ali has a daunting time trying to regain the Lendu seat, after his failure to quell an internal rebellion led to the collapse of his Perikatan Nasional state government.
While he still appeared to be favoured by residents of the state constituency here, Sulaiman, 55, could find his early announcement as Barisan Nasional’s candidate to return as the chief minister a bane rather than a boon.
This is because it has led to questions about Sulaiman’s ability to hold together any coalition that might govern the state after the election, compounded by unrelenting rumours of hidden hands behind him as the chief minister.
Such talk has prevailed in watering holes since the announcement of the state election forced by four assemblymen — including two from Umno — withdrawing support for Sulaiman as the CM.
According to one Kampung Baru Lendu resident who spoke to Malay Mail, not all were happy to see the state dragged into a premature election that was considered to be unnecessary and avoidable.
“Datuk Seri (Sulaiman) is a very good man. No one here doubts he has done many great services to the people here, but everyone is asking beyond that.
“Can he actually promise us that, under his new leadership, this whole thing won’t happen again?’’ said the person who declined to be named for the interview.
Even before the state election, rumours swirled that Sulaiman had been under the control of Melaka BN chairman Datuk Seri Ab Rauf Yusoh, whom some described as “one of two lions guarding the mountain” or a euphemism for a gatekeeper to Sulaiman.
Such rumours previously forced Ab Rauf to deny that he was a lion or any other such creature controlling access to Sulaiman.
The suspicion also cuts both ways, however. While BN deputy chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan has insisted that Sulaiman was the coalition’s sole pick to be chief minister, some in Sulaiman’s camp suspect that he was fielded again in Lendu in order to handicap him.
They harboured misgivings that this was done intentionally to limit Sulaiman’s margin of victory, which would then leave an opening for others to question his selection to be the chief minister, or consign him to a fate even worse.
“There is always internal politicking at work somewhere or somehow but we are not going to engage in all this stupidity. Right now, everyone is pushing hard, especially at PDMs (district polling centres) where we identified that Bersatu won in the previous elections and pushing hard to deliver these votes for Umno.
“Of course, there is a larger objective at play here and Datuk Seri is in the crosshairs. I don’t want to say more than I should, including questionable issues or made-up dramas that we are facing at a few PDM here but everyone here is going all out as best they can to ensure that this does not happen. We all know that he has to win big and he will,’’ said one campaigner.
While Lendu has been a BN seat since the constituency was first created in 2004, Sulaiman barely scraped through in the 2018 general election, winning with just 627 votes over Ridhuan Affandi Abu Bakar from Bersatu and Arshad Mohamad Som from PAS.
This time around, Sulaiman is going up against PN’s Major (Rtd) Abdullah Mahadi and Pakatan Harapan’s Mohamad Asri Ibrahim.
The seat is considered an overwhelming Malay majority seat with 78 per cent of total registered voters coming from the community, followed by 17 per cent Chinese, 5 per cent Indian and 1 per cent Others.
Coincidentally, Ab Rauf was chosen to contest Tanjung Bidara, an Umno stronghold that has never left the party’s hands and where the party won handily with nearly 3,000 more votes than its closest challenger in 2018.
When approached by Malay Mail, BN communications advisor Isham Jalil rejected the claims that Sulaiman was being set up for defeat in Lendu.
Instead, he said choosing Sulaiman for the seat indicated BN’s trust in him to deliver a difficult victory.
“He even won during the previous general election when public sentiment against BN was at its worst and, this time, we are confident he can win again,’’ Isham said.
Looking at the previous election’s result, Isham said Sulaiman’s target should also be to regain 10 per cent of the votes that went to PH then.
The Election Commission (EC) set the polling day for the Melaka election on Nov 20 while nomination day was on November 8 and early voting on Nov 16 following the dissolution of the State Assembly on October 4.
By : DANIAL DZULKIFLY – MALAY MAIL