Straight fight in Malaysian by-poll: Najib to campaign

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Najib tun Razak will personally campaign for his alliance’s ethnic Indian candidate in a key parliamentary by-election that became a straight fight after two independents withdrew Tuesday.

Odds favour P. Kamalanathan, information chief of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), a constituent of the Najib-led alliance Barisan Nasional (BN), who is facing Zaid Ibrahim, a former law minister and nominee of the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat, media reports said.

Hulu Selangor in Selangor state has only 19.6 percent ethnic Indians among the 65,000 voters, much less than the majority Malays and the ethnic Chinese.

However, staking his prestige, Najib, who hand-picked Kamalanathan, has said that challenge for the candidate and the MIC is that they should be representing all communities, not just Indians.

With Najib on tour of the US and now in Japan, the campaign is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyuddin Yassin who has hailed Kamalanathan as “truly Malaysian”.

“His name can be ‘Kamal’, which is Malay, ‘Alan’ which is Christian and ‘Nathan, which is Indian,” he told a rally.

The withdrawal of V.S. Chandran, a businessman who joined the fray to protest Kamalanathan’s choice, said he had made his point and was withdrawing “after talking to friends,” New Straits Times reported.

Chandran threw his support behind BN, which he contended would benefit from the 8,000 to 10,000 voters whom he supposedly commanded.

Malaysia is home to 1.7 million ethnic Indians, a bulk of whom are Tamils and form seven percent of the multi-racial population of 28 million.

Johan Mat Diah, another Independent, also withdrew, lending an edge to the Sunday poll.

Kamalanathan said he was motivated by the fact that the prime minister would be giving a helping hand for his campaign by visiting the constituency on Wednesday, the official Bernama news agency reported.

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