On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Close race in Ijok likely


Keeping order: Mounted policemen patrolling Batang Berjuntai in Ijok yesterday.

“This is not slander, I have the proof,” he told a cheering crowd in no uncertain terms of what he thought of Khalid, who is now the PKR treasurer-general.  

Najib also fired another salvo against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, accusing the latter of not practising transparency, which the PKR was advocating now.  

Also at the gathering at Simpang Tiga Ijok was Tan Sri Mohd Desa Pachi, the first chief executive officer of PNB, which is Guthrie's parent company. 

Najib’s expose caught many by surprise as the media was not given any indication he would be making a “big announcement” although before nomination day last week MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu had warned he would show “how much a golden boy Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is.” 

Over the past one week, PKR speakers, led by Anwar, had made allegations of corruption against Barisan leaders at their highly-charged ceramah (talks) but what Najib revealed must have stunned the opposition camp. 

The mood in Ijok is that politicians who live in glasshouses should not throw stones but no one is sure whether the revelations by Najib would be enough to swing the anti-establishment and undecided voters. 

“Kalau kita nak cerita, banyak yang kita boleh cerita, lebih menarik, lebih berwarna warni (if we wish to reveal, there are plenty of stories, more interesting and more colourful ones),” Najib warned, saying there were those who cakap tak serupa bikin (do not practise what they preach). 

But PKR is surely aware of the implications, as Khalid was quick to issue a press statement yesterday to refute the allegations. 

Saying he had acquired the shares at market price, Khalid said he had instructed his lawyers to prepare a lawsuit against Najib and “all others who have been making false and unfounded statements” against him. 

Yesterday, the Prime Minister decided to visit the constituency personally for the final push. Regarded as an ace, Barisan campaigners believe that Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s presence would help. 

The opposition has not aimed their salvos at Pak Lah throughout the campaign, preferring to target Najib, as the elder politician is well regarded among voters in the Malay heartland in Ijok. 

Not to be outdone, the PKR is holding a big gathering of key opposition leaders today as a finale to their campaign, hoping that their parting words would leave an impression on their listeners. 

But as of now, there is no letting up until voting begins tomorrow. It may be the final lap here but campaigners are still putting up posters, banners and billboards as if the campaign has just started. 

If the political temperature was high on nomination day, it has now gotten hotter as both sides wait nervously for the outcome of the hardest fought by-election under Abdullah’s leadership. 

Poll casters from political groups and intelligence agencies have all predicted a close call and given a win to the Barisan but still believe the by-election is being keenly fought with possible last-minute swings.  

This is not the time for mistakes as campaigning enters the critical stage. 

There will only be nine peti undi (ballot boxes) for the Ijok electorate of 12,272 voters and the election results are expected to be known by 9.30pm tomorrow, with only three recounts allowed under the election laws. 

The stakes may be high and the players are jittery but like a poker game, many of the voters are keeping their cards close to their chests with their stoic faces and not letting slip how they would vote tomorrow. And this is worrying for both sides.