By Emily Ding
KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 — Despite the odds that had been stacked against her, PKR incumbent Nurul Izzah Anwar succeeded in keeping her Lembah Pantai federal seat against Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Datuk Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin in one of the fiercest fights in today’s general election, winning by a 1,847-vote margin.
The eldest daughter of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim scooped up 31,008 votes to defeat the caretaker Federal Territories minister who netted 29,161 votes.
Independent candidate Rusli Baba, who had quit Umno to throw his hat in the ring, drew only 167 votes and lost his deposit.
Largely a political showdown between the 32-year-old Nurul Izzah and Raja Nong Chik in this constituency of contrasts, where the urban poor living in low-cost flats chafe against the upper-class Bangsar neighbourhood with its upscale bistros and boutiques.
Related story: Selangor stays with Pakatan; Ibrahim Ali loses Pasir Mas
Nurul Izzah had defeated Wanita Umno chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil in the 2008 general election with a 2,895-vote majority.
Dubbed the “princess of reformation”, Nurul Izzah had always maintained that she needed to win over the large and overwhelmingly Malay working-class.
Raja Nong Chik, who had brandished his “local son” status as part of his appeal, had said he needed to swing the middle- and upper-class Chinese in his favour.
Related story: Bloodied BN wins Election 2013, keeps Perak
Raja Nong Chik was often hailed by supporters as the “Lembah Pantai minister” and his confidence among the working class came from the practical changes he had made to their lives — most importantly by implementing various low-cost housing projects, helping the poor rent cheaply from Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) or to buy their own homes.
Nurul Izzah had appeared to be politically under siege in these working-class neighbourhoods, where her lone PKR campaign tent would be lost behind a wall of BN huge posters showing Raja Nong Chik’s face and banked by BN’s formidable election machinery, manpower and seemingly bottomless pockets.
Related story: Gelang Patah gamble pays off for Kit Siang
On the other hand, Nurul Izzah’s campaign appeared to be boosted by resident initiatives in the middle-class neighbourhoods.
The “Malaysian Spring” project of little multi-coloured flags — dubbed “flowers” — kicked off by landscape architect Ng Seksan at a roundabout in Lucky Garden has since spread to other suburbs in the Klang Valley and other states like Perak and Penang, and even cities abroad like Barcelona and London.
Nurul Izzah had complained of the lack of a level playing field pointing to the electoral roll which she alleged contained 5,000 dubious voters who could not be traced and hefty cash handouts by the federal government to some 200,000 households in her constituency.
She also alleged political foe of using his position as a Cabinet minister to block her access to government facilities and hamper her efforts to carry out projects as an MP.
Despite this, it appears that the voters of Lembah Pantai have decided to put their future in her hands, perhaps spurred by the running allegations of corruption against BN and a strong desire for a change in the federal government — and a true two-party political system — after the BN’s 56-year-hold on the country.
Related story: Malaysian regime retains its 56-year hold on power
Nurul Izzah’s victory also gives credence to the rumoured existence of a group of voters who, for fear of political repercussions, would have publicly pledged their allegiance to Raja Nong Chik — or indeed, opted to remain silent — but who would have cast their ballots in her favour.
The number of voters in Lembah Pantai shot up from 56,650 in 2008 to 72,533 this year, an increase of almost 16,000 voters.
Malays make up the majority at 55 per cent, while the Chinese and Indians comprise 23 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.