The ‘traitor’ label doesn’t seem to stick with Hamzah Zainudin, an Umno defector who jumped to Bersatu after the 2018 general election.
As the Larut incumbent sets out to defend the seat, a sampling of voter sentiment in Perak constituency showed residents were unperturbed by the acting home secretary’s past actions.
Party rivals said Hamzah had built formidable machinery and was set to retain the parliamentary seat for a record fourth term.
Pejuang area coordinator Mat Supri Musa said the Bersatu leader’s grip on the constituency was seen in his well-funded machinery and general voter affection.
The formidable machinery of PAS was also running a strong campaign for the three-term MP.
“Here in Larut, I see him as an unbeatable elephant. No one can knock him down. Even Umno will lose against him.
“Hamzah has a connection with the voters and he has used his financial resources well. So I don’t think he will be defeated,” said the 68-year-old retired teacher, who was a special officer for Hamzah shortly after the latter left Umno for Bersatu in 2018.
Mat Supri, who served in the Larut Umno Division as a member for five terms, was also a Bersatu candidate in the last general election but lost.
He joined Pejuang when Dr Mahathir Mohamad established the party last year.
Mat Supri said Hamzah’s campaign style is a mirror image of Umno’s approach.
The difference was that Hamzah’s machines, which are driven by the PAS, worked without expecting any financial reward.
“Our candidate Larut has no chance against this. In all likelihood, not only will we lose, but we will also lose our deposit,” he said of the Pejuang candidate’s chances.
The presence of Perikatan Nasional (PN) can be felt and seen from afar with the flags and banners that dot the landscape of Larut, set up by its machines.
Party workers wearing PN colors could be seen in every nook and cranny either raising flags or manning tents or “pondok panas” ahead of the November 19 poll.
Larut is a 90% Malay majority constituency with community support split between PAS and Umno.
But with the breakaway Umno Bersatu party in a coalition with the PAS, observers believe the vote will go to the PN.
In the last general elections, Hamzah won with a majority of 4,486 votes after garnering 18,184 votes.
His PAS rival Abu Husin Mohammad interviewed 13,698 people, while Khairil Anuar Akhiruddin of Pakatan Harapan (PH) interviewed 7,738.
Registered voters for the election were pegged at 70,000, an increase of 16,000 new voters.
Hamzah will face Mohd Shafiq Fhadly Mahmud (BN), Zolkarnain Abidin (PH) and Awzey Fazlan Sahidi (Pejuang) this time around.
The three state seats in the constituency are Kubu Gajah, Selama and Batu Kurau.
Khalil Yahaya won Kubu Gajah and Mohamad Daud Mohd Yusoff won Selama – both from PAS, while BN’s Muhammad Amin Zakaria won Batu Kurau with a majority of 2,308 votes.
Khalil and Daud will defend their seats for PAS while BN will field newcomer Saliza Ahmad for Batu Kurau.
Voters were unfazed by new Hamzah banners bearing the logo of a rival coalition.
Food vendor Hamimi Awang, 34, says unlike in urban areas, people in Larut generally prefer to support a candidate rather than their party.
Hamzah is known in the area for his work and many are happy with the service he provided.
“Hamzah jumping parties have no effect. Many here reject the party. We want people who can work and the candidate’s party counts for little,” he said.
He said voters hope their elected representatives will be able to improve the local economy.
Another voter who declined to be named said young people want better jobs and Hamzah is seen as someone who can help improve the region’s economic prospects.
“Hamzah is a minister and if he wins and is reappointed, he will do things for the local economy,” he said.
Hamzah’s campaign has focused on small groups or what is called “ceramah kelompok”.
The Malaysian insight attended his ceramah in Kubu Gajah, which had a mixed crowd of young and old.
Many young people wanted selfies with Hamzah who was quick to accept.
Hamzah presented PN as a coalition of trust and integrity, ready to bring about change in Malaysia.
“We want honest and sincere leaders. People who work for the betterment of our people.
“We don’t want leaders who think only of their groups and their interests. PN was formed to bring people of integrity together under one roof,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd. – November 16, 2022.