MUKHRIZ BLAZES A TRAIL FROM DR M’S SHADOW
IT is certainly not beyond Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir to wrest the Ayer Hitam state seat back into Barisan Nasional’s fold.
Ahead is a guaranteed stiff fight for the 47-year-old son of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who faces incumbent Abdul Ghani Ahmad from Pas.
Arguments that Mukhriz, who was the member of parliament of Jerlun, the constituency which the state seat of Ayer Hitam falls under, is not a local boy can easily be debunked.
Back in 2008, the Alor Star-born Mukhriz defied scepticism and rose to the occasion by beating Idris Ahmad, a senior Pas leader, by a comfortable majority of 2,205 votes, to win the Jerlun seat.
Interestingly enough, Ayer Hitam, before becoming a state seat, was known as Jerlun.
When the state seat was contested for the first time under its new name in 1995, it was won by BN’s Datuk Abdul Rahman Ariffin with a 1,717-vote majority against Pas candidate, Hashim Othman.
Rahman, a former Kedah state exco member and currently Jerlun Umno chief, failed to retain it in 1999 when he lost by 144 votes to Ghani, the same Pas candidate Mukhriz is challenging.
Ghani, a former Kedah state exco member in the post-2008 Pas-led state government, had lost the seat to BN’s Datuk Othman Aziz by 860 votes in 2004 but recaptured it in a rematch in 2008, winning by a 506-vote majoriy.
At the same time, Mukhriz made his political debut and won the Jerlun parliamentary constituency. Other than Ayer Hitam, Kota Siputeh is the other state seat under the Jerlun parliamentary seat.
Ayer Hitam is not a Pas stronghold as perceived by some, and the votes can swing either way. Some are convinced that it could land on BN’s side this time around.
Ghani, while confident that his local boy status would give him an edge over Mukhriz, expects a tough battle.
“I can relate better to the problems faced by the people,” he said on nomination day after he and Mukhriz were confirmed to be facing off.
But Mukhriz is also equally confident that his track record as a wakil rakyat and deputy minister of international trade and industry would speak for itself.
“They will judge me on what I have done as an elected representative. I believe they would want me to continue as their wakil rakyat,” he said.
Jerlun Umno division vice-chief, Abdul Aziz Mahmud believes Mukhriz’s track record would hold him in good stead.
“He has delivered as Jerlun MP. I am sure he can wrest back Ayer Hitam from Pas,” he said.
Mukhriz is an old hand at wooing voters, having spent long hours campaigning for candidates in elections in other parts of the country prior to the 2008 general election.
His soft-spoken and friendly nature works well among the predominantly Malay rural constituents, who earn their living as padi farmers, fishermen, prawn breeders and trading, besides working in the public and private sectors.
“We believe he is able to bring changes to the fishing community in Ayer Hitam and other parts of Jerlun,” said Jerlun Fishermen Association chairman Zainuddin Ismail.
Nowadays, Mukhriz seldom hears whispers of “anak Tun Mahathir”, unlike when he was campaigning for his Jerlun seat five years ago or in the early days after winning the seat — not that he minds being labelled as such as he is very much his dad’s son.
Still, he is happy the grassroots have accepted him as their wakil rakyat, not just a son of Dr Mahathir.
Read more: New Straits Times