GE15: Penang Umno eyeing Balik Pulau parliamentary seat

BALIK PULAU: After suffering a shock defeat in 2018, Penang Umno believes it has a good fighting chance to wrest back its once stronghold – the Balik Pulau parliamentary seat – from PKR.

It is understood that several names, including Balik Pulau Umno division chairman Datuk Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah, have been submitted to the party for consideration.

Another name bandied about is former Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Datuk Dr Muhammad Farid Saad, who is now leading Penang Muslim Entrepreneurs Association and Pertubuhan Badan Pemikir Melayu (Pemikir), a Penang Malay think tank group. He is chairman for both the associations.

Both Farid and Shah Headan, a former Teluk Bahang assemblyman, were formidable Opposition members in the Penang state assembly before they lost in the 2018 general election.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, incumbent Datuk Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik is expected to defend the seat.

When contacted, Farid said the party could put up a good fight if a native is chosen to stand in the seat.

“The constituency needs an MP who is always there for them, to hear them out, to understand them and help them in their daily lives.

“Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya, who had since retired from politics, was one such good example. He stayed within the constituency and had served the constituency well.

“Post Covid-19 pandemic, there are some issues like the high cost of living, unemployment, lack of affordable housing that need serious attention from the elected representatives here.

“There are also environmental issues that affect fishermen’s income and the unwanted influx of foreign workers living within the neighbourhood,” he said.

The last Malay bastion on Penang island fell to the Opposition for the first time in 2008.

PKR’s Mohd Yusmadi Mohd Yusoff defeated Umno’s Datuk Dr Norraesah Mohamad before Dr Hilmi won back the seat against Bakhtiar in 2013. Bakhtiar got his revenge in 2018.