GUA MUSANG, Kelantan: Since devastating floods hit Kelantan in 2014, 25-year-old Siti Suhailah has had no home to call her own.
She lost her husband – along with the family’s wooden house – in the deadly floods and landslides which followed the heavy downpour in the southern city of Gua Musang four years ago.
The state governed by Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) has been slow to relocate these flood victims in Kampung Limau Kasturi .
In the last election in 2013, Siti Suhailah voted for PAS as she believed then that it was her duty as a Muslim. But now in 2018, she said she knows better.
“I think Barisan Nasional will do a better job. Floods in Kelantan is an annual affair, and if we change state government, it’ll help resolve this deadly problem,” she said.
She was not the only Kelantan voter to have had a change of heart.
Just five kilometres away at Kampung Bertam Baru, hundreds of locals in blue shirts gathered to welcome BN’s Gua Musang candidate Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who was there to launch the construction of a bridge.
Resident and former PAS diehard Mohd Din told Channel NewsAsia at the event that BN, unlike PAS, has resources to help residents.
“They are experienced in governing states. The whole of Malaysia suffers from heavy rainfall during the monsoon season but it’s only Kelantan that suffers tragically every year,” he said.
He added that the stature and popularity of veteran BN politicians like Tengku Razaleigh, affectionately called Ku Li by locals, and Malaysia’s Minister for International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed, who is contesting in Jeli, could swing the vote in Kelantan.
Malaysia political analyst and senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) Yang Razali Kassim told Channel NewsAsia that although PAS governed Kelantan for 28 years, it “has not been able to show much progress”.
He added that the party has also now to contend with the breakaway Parti Amanah Negara, part of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pakatan Harapan coalition.
Amanah’s leadership is mostly made up of former members of PAS who left because they did not agree with the party’s future political direction.
The party believes it has a chance to secure a credible result in Kelantan, and wants to govern based on the teachings of the revered spiritual leader of PAS, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who died in 2015.
Nik Aziz’s eldest son, Nik Omar, is the new face of Amanah after his last minute decision to defect from PAS on nomination day – a move that has triggered unrest within his family.
But Nik Omar’s grace and charisma has charmed voters in Kelantan, many of whom have flocked to his political rallies across the state to hear him speak.
“He is legendary just like his father. He speaks with humility, and is a good example for muslims everywhere,” said Ali Rafiuddin, who attended Nik Omar’s rally at Tanah Merah, on the outskirts of Kelantan’s capital city Kota Bharu.
Nik Omar is contesting the state seat of Chempaka and if Amanah wins a majority of the 45 state assembly seats, he will be appointed chief minister of Kelantan.
Lee Ming Song, who will vote in Chempaka told Channel NewsAsia that Nik Omar appeals to non-Muslim voters as well.
“He has a more moderate stance than PAS, and he believes in a multi-racial Malaysia to lead this country. That is important for me,” said the 42-year-old.
Yang Razali stressed that Nik Omar, like his father, is “showing signs of being bigger than Kelantan”.
“He is a man to watch,” he said.