PORT DICKSON: In the searing heat, a small group of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) volunteers lugged metal poles twice their height outside the party headquarters at Port Dickson Waterfront on Friday afternoon (Sep 28).
In a small corner of the usually quiet town centre, the area outside the PKR office was a hive of activity as supporters put up tents, prepared party flags and collated campaign posters bearing the face of Malaysia's prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim.
It is less than 24 hours before the nomination for the Port Dickson by-election opens, when Anwar is set to take his first step to officially re-enter politics since he was released from prison in May.
The Port Dickson parliamentary seat was vacated in September by PKR's Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, a retired navy Rear Admiral, who resigned to pave the way for Anwar to contest the seat and re-enter parliament.
While Anwar's supporters are confident of him winning the seat come election day on Oct 13, some are wary of complacency amid reports that four other candidates have publicly expressed their intention to contest.
"We can't rest on our laurels," said a 24-year-old PKR supporter, while carrying metal poles to set up a rally site at an open field in Waterfront.
"You never know how people vote. We have to give our all to help Anwar re-enter parliament and eventually become prime minister, as he rightly deserves."
Another supporter, who is also a Port Dickson resident, said: "It's surreal. From tomorrow, the international media will be here in PD, monitoring how Anwar fares against the rest. We (PKR) have to be in our best shape."
Parti Islam Se-Malaysia's (PAS) Mohd Nazari Mokhtar, Parti Rakyat Malaysia's Ahmad Kamaruddin, as well as independent candidates Isa Abdul Samad and Stevie Chan have all announced that they will submit their names for nomination on Saturday morning.
Rashaad Ali, Malaysia research analyst at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University, told Channel NewsAsia that the list of candidates to battle Anwar was "interesting" as it highlighted how the different parties view the importance of putting in people who could identify with locals in the by-election.
"Perhaps this was done with Anwar in mind, to emphasise his 'illegitimacy' as a parachute candidate. These candidates may not win outright, but they do stand a chance at disrupting the election, especially if voter turnout is low," said Rashaad.
PAS CANDIDATE MOHD NAZARI
Mohd Nazari is a former lieutenant colonel who served with Malaysia’s air force for 28 years before his retirement in 2008.
The 57-year-old pledged that he would highlight the issues of military personnel if elected as MP for Port Dickson.
However, it is likely that Mohd Nazari will struggle to garner enough votes due to the mixed demographics in the constituency, said Rashaad. The voters in Port Dickson are made up of 42.7 per cent Malays, 33.1 per cent Chinese and 22 per cent Indians.
"PAS has struggled to do well in mixed seats when outside a coalition as they are unable to piggyback on voters' support for other parties, such as the largely Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP)."
PAM CANDIDATE AHMAD KAMARUDDIN
Ahmad announced his intention to campaign at a press conference on Thursday afternoon and wasted no time in aiming a jibe at Anwar, describing the way in which he has paved his return as "weak" and "demonstrates his greed and impatience".
Ahmad, who was part of PKR's youth wing between 2011 and 2014, expressed confidence that he can challenge Anwar as they were both outsiders battling for a seat in Negeri Sembilan's Port Dickson. Ahmad is originally from Pahang while Anwar is from Permatang Pauh in Penang.
In the last general election in May, Ahmad contested against another PKR bigwig Azmin Ali for the state seat of Bukit Antarabangsa, Selangor. He clinched 0.3 per cent of the vote while Azmin, who is running to become deputy president of PKR, won 79.64 per cent of the vote.
INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE ISA SAMAD
Isa, who was chief of UMNO's Teluk Kemang division, resigned from the party last Tuesday to contest the by-election.
The 68-year-old was previously chief minister of Negeri Sembilan for 22 years and a former vice president of UMNO, but he fell from grace after he was investigated in the recent Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) scandal.
Isa's scandal-ridden history as former Felda chairperson meant that he was not fielded by UMNO in the last general election in May.
Rashaad said: "Isa Samad as an independent will be interesting. He has had a long association with Negeri Sembilan and may retain sympathy from voters in the area, particularly among the Malays. His presence in this by-election is sure to draw votes away from Anwar."
INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE STEVIE CHAN
Independent candidate Stevie Chan unveiled his manifesto for Port Dickson last Wednesday when he pledged that, if elected, he will ensure that authorities provide public transport services between Port Dickson and Kuala Lumpur.
Chan also promised to work closely with local authorities and relevant ministries to focus on ensuring cleanliness of Port Dickson as a whole.
The 51-year-old, who has been described by local media as a social media personality, said that on a national level, he will push the Pakatan Harapan government on a specific timeline to deliver on its key promises.
Chan added that he will insist that election laws be amended such that if a member of parliament were to resign without just cause, he will be penalised and investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).