UPDATED AT 6.31PM KOTA KINABALU : Linda Tsen Thau Lin, 54, a housewife and part-time music teacher will be the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate for the Batu Sapi parliament by-election.
The widow of MP Edmund Chong Ket Wah is also the deputy wanita chief of the Elopura Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) division that was headed by her late husband who died in a road accident on Oct 9 causing the by-election.
Chief Minister Musa Aman described Tsen as a capable woman who would serve Batu Sapi well.
“It is now time for all BN component parties to work together to ensure victory,” he said today.
Her late husband was the PBS treasurer general and a two-term MP for Batu Sapi , parliamentary constituency with 25,582 voters with 1,535 being postal.
However FMT learnt that PBS supporters in Batu Sapi are reportedly unhappy with the late decision to drop a front-runner as a candidate in favour of Tsen.
State BN leaders had initially contemplated fielding former Sibuga assemblyman Thien Fui Yun in the parliamentary by-election but has since changed their minds at the last minute.
Tsen became the new hot favourite - and subsequently the BN's choice - after the state BN felt that a local face would be a better candidate. The fact that she was the widow of Edmund Chong, whose death in a road accident on Oct 9 caused the by-election, also played a factor in the decision to pick her.
Sources said PBS president Joseph Pairin Kitingan, who had been given the mandate to select the candidate for BN, had initially opted for Thien.
However, the announcement by the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) that its president and former Sabah chief minister Yong Teck Lee would contest for the seat in the Nov 4 parliamentary by-election, as well as pressure from his right hand man, deputy president Dr Maximus Ongkili, saw Pairin changing his mind, they said.
Thien, a PBS vice president and chief of PBS' Gum Gum division, a state constituency neighbouring Batu Sapi, was reportedly angered by the decision, said a source.
To quell any hint of rebellion, another source said, PBS deputy president for the Chinese quota, Dr Yee Moh Chai organised a dinner gathering for the party's Chinese members including Thien at a restaurant in Sandakan last night.
"Supposedly Yee explained to them the reason behind the party's leadership decision. Thien wants to know why,” said one of the sources.
Voters want local person
Political observers who have been monitoring PBS politics said Pairin has been known to change his mind at the eleventh hour and his decision should come as no surprise to Thien and his supporters.
In the 2008 general election he also shocked incumbent Jornah Mozihim whose name was already announced as a candidate by the state BN chairman a few days earlier, by replacing her with Sarapin Magana as PBS-BN candidate for Matunggong state seat.
PBS leaders believe that SAPP's decision to field Yong is an indication that the party is “going for broke” in the election.
Sabah CM Musa, also the state BN chief, who announced Tsen's candidacy today, has been reported as saying that BN's candidate will be a local person who knows and understands the needs of Sandakan people.
“The people of Batu Sapi want a wakil rakyat from the same area who understands their problems better,” he said yesterday.
Ansari is PKR's pick
The Batu Sapi by-election is expected to see a three-cornered fight with PKR also joining in the fray. The peninsular-based party named seasoned politician-cum-lawyer Ansari Abdullah as its candidate today.
The announcement was made by PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim in the presence of several Pakatan Rakyat leaders here.
Ansari, who is an Anwar loyalist, is Tuaran chief and a central leadership council member. He is also closely linked to deputy president aspirant Azmin Ali.
Sources told FMT that Anwar picked Ansari over others to take advantage of the large number of Muslim bumiputera voters at Batu Sapi.
“In any event Anwar is not keen to win this by-election. He thinks the general election is just around the corner and wants to gauge the support of the Muslims for the party,” said a source.
PKR is also believed to be upset with Yong for failing to step aside to allow for a straight fight between PKR and BN.
Going solely by popularity factor, many Batu Sapi voters believe Yong is the favourite to win this by-election.
There are 25,582 voters including 1,535 postal voters in Batu Sapi comprising 59% or 15,099 Muslim bumiputera, 38% or 9,737 Chinese, 2.69% or 689 non-Muslim bumiputera and 0.22% or 57 others.
PAS sees encouraging signs as BN picks Abdul Aziz
The party has made its presence visible throughout the Gua Musang township while Barisan sits waiting for the go-ahead to deploy from its machinery director Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
Some 20,000 supporters and members roared in approval after the party's candidate Dr Zulkefli Mohamed was unveiled on Thursday night.
Party officials are now claiming that PAS has taken the initiative from Barisan although by and large, the constituency is traditionally, a stronghold of Razaleigh.
Although officially, state PAS strategist Wan Abdul Rahim Wan Abdullah rates PAS as the underdog in the contest, the party is confident of making inroads after encountering good indicators.
Some party officials are now saying that the Islamist party is leading by 25% based on its own random party sampling.
This is also because the Barisan machinery has yet to be fully activated except for its main operation centre in Bukit Cekati, the home of Razaleigh.
The number one encouraging sign was the warm response accorded to Mentri Besar Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat by the Chinese and orang asli communities, who form the second and third largest electoral voters other than Malays here.
The second indicator was that the Gua Musang Umno division seems to be riddled with infighting as its Wanita and Youth heads apparently do not get along with the Kelantan prince.
Another sign was the willingness of the new Sultan of Kelantan, Sultan Muhammad Ke V Tuanku Muhammad Faris Petra Sultan Ismail Petra to officiate programmes at the PAS-managed state community plantation schemes (ladang rakyat).
On Friday, the state ruler performed prayers here before visiting a plantation's scheme, one of the key pillars of PAS growing influence in the constituency, which has a valley-like landscape and its size is bigger than Malacca.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang said the ability of the party to win Galas seat in the 2008 general election, was an indicator that after 20-years of governance, PAS is breaking into a stronghold of Razaleigh and Umno.
Wan Abdul Rahim said this by-election is also unique as it would be held in conjunction with the party's 20th anniversary celebration of its rule over Kelantan.
On Oct 20, 1990, PAS captured the east coast state on the platform of Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah coalition, whose members consisted of the now-defunct Semangat 46 and DAP.
Ironically, Semangat's president was none other than Razaleigh.
In view of this, Wan Abdul Rahim said the PAS campaigners would not be attacking Razaleigh personally during the by-election, preferring to remain focused on informing voters about PAS policies and achievements under the ulama leadership.
BN names Gua Musang division secretary
Meanwhile Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is in Gua Musang today, announced that Gua Musang Umno division secretary Abdul Aziz Yusof, 49, will be BN's candidate for Galas.
Muhyiddin said that Abdul Aziz was a young and capable candidate who could wrest Galas back for BN. He has served at Kelantan Selatan Development Authority (Kesedar), a federal agency in this PAS-run state.
"As he (Abdul Aziz) will be contesting in the by-election for the Galas state constituency, he had already resigned from his post in Kesedar. He is a local man and he is still young," Muhyiddin said in his speech when announcing the BN candidate at the Gua Musang Umno building in Bukit Chekati, here.
BN's campaign is expected to pick up steam following the naming of its candidate today, said state opposition leader Md Alwi Che Ahmad.
Md Alwi also urged PAS not to misled the orang asli with false promises of resolving their land matters.
In another development, Kelantan state secretary Mohd Aiseri Alias announced that the Galas polling day will be a public holiday.
"The state government has agreed to declare Thursday, Nov 4, as a 'cuti peristiwa' (ocassional holiday) for the whole state in conjunction with the by-election," he said.