Still smarting from the recent defection of their lawmaker from Pakatan Harapan to Perikatan Nasional, PKR leaders and grassroots in Batu Pahat, Johor, are working hard to identify a local candidate to wrest back the parliamentary seat.
The constituency came into the spotlight in late February after its lawmaker Mohd Rashid Hasnon defected from PKR along with then deputy party president Mohd Azmin Ali to Bersatu, allowing the PN pact to take over federal power.
Rashid won the Pantai Jerejak state seat in Penang in 2013 and was appointed deputy chief minister, but in GE14, he was asked to contest in Batu Pahat, where he won handsomely.
Feeling bitter about the defection, PKR leaders and grassroots are now pushing for their party to identify a local candidate in the next polls.
They told The Malaysian Insight that PKR and PH must not rely on “parachute” candidates after their bitter lesson with Rashid.
“We do not want a parachute candidate here. We want a local who will not betray the people of Batu Pahat,” said Batu Pahat PKR youth chief Mohammad Salmin Mohammad.
He said this is the view of all grassroots leaders in the constituency.
From Penang to Johor
Rashid, 60, was born in Muar, Johor but made his political career in Penang with PKR.
He settled in Penang in1984 and ventured into PKR politics following Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking from Umno and the government in 1998.
He was among the founders of Penang PKR and was the party’s state deputy leader.
He was made deputy chief minister after winning the Pantai Jerejak state seat in 2013.
Rashid was parachuted into Batu Pahat in GE14 and following his win, he was made the deputy speaker of Dewan Rakyat by the PH government.
In February this year, he defected from PKR with Azmin and nine other MPs.
In the ongoing parliamentary sitting, the PN government retained Rashid as the deputy speaker although it replaced the speaker and another deputy.
After leaving PKR, Rashid said about 500 members from Batu Pahat also left the party.
However, a grassroots leader disputed this figure, saying that only two branch leaders left with Rashid.
“The 500 figure is not true. We only lost two branch leaders. Party members are still intact,” said the leader who declined to be named.
Batu Pahat PKR is not weakened by Rashid’s defection and making plans to face the next elections, he said.
The Malaysian Insight learned that the Batu Pahat parliament seat is eyed by numerous parties, including others from PH, as it is considered a safe seat.
In GE14, Rashid won by 17,894 votes to defeat BN/Umno’s Haliza Abdullah and PAS’ Dr Mahfodz Mohamed.
Almost 90% of Rashid’s majority came from one of the three state seats in this constituency – Penggaram, which was won by DAP’s Gan Peng Heng by 17,205 votes.
Amanah’s Khairuddin A Rahim won the Senggarang state seat by 809 votes while BN won the Rengit state seat by 4,172 votes.
All three state seats also witnessed three-cornered fights involving PH, BN and PAS.
The PAS candidates in the three state seats and the Batu Pahat parliamentary seat lost their deposits.
Johor PKR chief Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh said PKR will defend all its seats in Johor in the next general election.
“Although we have no government machinery to help us, we will work on our own to prepare to defend our seats.
“Many are disappointed that Rashid defected, but it is okay. He has made up his mind. As for us, we will have to work hard to defend Batu Pahat,” Syed Ibrahim said. – TMI