COMMENTARY, Aug 26 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is coming to Slim River tomorrow to lend his support to candidate Amir Khusyairi Mohamad Tanusi as the by-election campaign enters its final lap.
The Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) chairman is slated to speak at Pusat Bandar Felda Besout 3 and Pusat Perindustrian Ringan Felda Trolak Utara — two venues with very different demographics.
We will only know on Saturday whether the former prime minister’s presence is a vote booster for Amir Khusyairi, but it will surely give him more confidence.
But what is certain is that with two days left to polling, the candidates are not taking things for granted and making every effort to woo fence-sitters.
During the course of the two-week campaign period, Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Mohamad Zaidi Aziz and Amir Khusyairi have reached out to the majority of Slim’s 23,000 constituents — but the odds are only the former knows them by name, while the latter is probably still collecting their data.
Mohamad Zaidi is lucky to have the Umno and PAS election machinery behind him.
In contrast, Amir Khusyairi is relying on close friends and Pejuang supporters to meet voters, but they are no match for the might of the Umno and PAS machinery.
Furthermore, since the large Felda schemes of Trolak and Besout are bastions of the two Malay-based parties, Amir Khusyairi has had little opportunity to make inroads there.
Nevertheless, he has found support among young voters who admire his courage.
Consciously veering from campaigning norms, he has done away with the usual political rhetoric to focus on youth who care more about weathering the current economic climate than the ideological struggle that appeals to their parents who are staunch supporters of Umno and PAS.
Yesterday, for example, saw him offering advice to youths on how to market their products and organise baking classes.
He also took the time to visit Orang Asli villages that are dotted throughout the schemes.
For now, Amir Khusyairi is also banking on DAP to court non-Malay voters even though the party as well as former coalition partner PKR are not on good terms with Dr Mahathir.
Chances are this tactic will work, in so far as it will allow Amir Khusyairi to keep his deposit and have a positive impact, but likely it won’t be enough to make him the dark horse in Saturday’s contest.