(File pix) Tan Sri Ali Rustam (right) and Syamsul Amri Ismail. NSTP Photo

KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional will unleash a large number of young candidates on the GE14 battleground to ensure the mandate is returned to the coalition.

These young leaders, many of whom are professionals, academicians and civil servants, will fight it out in the polls, along with their BN seniors, as well as some who have made a comeback after having sat out the past polls.

The coalition announced yesterday that 154 of its candidates from the five states, which unveiled their list, were new faces.

Selangor topped the list with some 70 per cent of its candidates being new faces.

Kelantan followed with 51 per cent of the candidates being fresh faces, while Johor has 45 per cent, Negri Sembilan at 50 per cent and Melaka, 30 per cent.

BALANCED MIX BETWEEN NEW AND OLD

It is learnt that BN leaders had sent feelers to grassroots members more than two months ago to determine their preferences, candidates’ likeability and, thus, winnability.

In Selangor, BN showcased 56 new faces to contest 14 parliamentary and 42 state seats.

Selangor BN chairman Tan Sri Noh Omar said the selection process was the most meticulous ever done and the candidates hada good balance of age and background.

He said Selangor BN would feature nine young candidates, eight women, 13 professionals, 12 academicians and civil servants and two former army officers.

In Johor, state BN chairman Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said 36 of the 82 candidates contesting state parliamentary and state seats were new faces.

He said out of the 20 parliamentary seats won by BN in the 13th General Election, 15 incumbents were retained, two were dropped, one moved to another seat, while another one would contest a state seat.

As for state seats, Khaled said out of the 37 won in GE13, the state BN retained 19 as representatives and dropped 13. Three former assemblymen (from Kemelah, Pasir Raja and Bukit Kepong) would contest parliamentary seats (Sekijang, Tenggara and Pagoh), in this polls.

The state is also featuring two ‘comeback kids’ — Tan Choong (Bekok) and Tan Cher Puk (Johor Jaya).

“From the 82 candidates, nine are women, two youths and one from the (Umno) Puteri wing,” Khaled said.

In Melaka, state BN chairman Datuk Seri Idris Haron said from the 34 candidates listed, 10 were newcomers running for two parliamentary seats and eight state seats.

“The newcomers have high academic qualifications and are professionals, including our youngest, a 31-year-old candidate.”

In Kelantan, of the 59 candidates to be fielded, BN is featuring 30 new faces for two parliamentary seats and 28 state seats.

State BN chairman Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed described the candidate list — which comprised seasoned political leaders, representatives from Wanita, Youth and Puteri wings, government and private sector officers, religious experts and non-governmental organisation leaders — as the best line-up offered by the state BN.

In Negri Sembilan, state BN chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan announced that 22 newcomers out of its 44 candidates would contest parliamentary and state seats.

Mohamad said 18 representatives were retained, one moved to another seat, three returned to contest and three dropped.

Among the new faces contesting is Seremban Umno division information chief Syamsul Amri Ismail, also known as ‘Syamsul Debat’, who will be run for the Sikamat state seat.

BN’S WINNABLE APPROACH

Political analyst Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani said BN’s approach revealed a new perspective which reflected the coalition’s readiness to reinvent itself.

He pointed out the leadership’s move to sit out several old guards, including Kota Tinggi parliamentary seat representative Datuk Noor Ehsanuddin Mohd Harun Narrashid, former parliamentarians Tan Sri Isa Samad and Datuk Mohd Puad Zarkashi, Paloh state seat representative Datuk Nozula Mat Diah, Pasir Gudang representative Datuk Normala Abdul Samad and Gadek representative, who is also Melaka MIC chairman, Datuk M.S. Mahadevan.

“BN has been making preparations before this, to show something new (in the form of new leaders). This shows the image of Selangor BN not only being new, but also ‘clean’ (fresh), with the potential to go far.”

He said BN had always been adaptive towards change and implementing a balanced mix of incumbents and new faces.

The Melaka lineup announcement saw former chief minister Tan Sri Ali Rustam making a comeback to the political arena. It will be a homecoming of sorts for him as he will contest the Hang Tuah Jaya parliamentary seat, which was formerly known as Bukit Katil.

Azizuddin said: “It would not have bode well if the state had replaced all incumbents with new candidates, as the seniors have a wealth of experience to assist the new faces in their political career.

“BN always responds to the grassroots (their aspiration) by providing opportunities to young leaders.”

WOMEN TO THE FORE

In all five states, BN also made it known that women played an important role in politics, long exemplified by its string of notable women leaders past and present.

National Professors’ Council political cluster secretary Professor Datuk Dr Abdul Halim Sidek said the candidate list reflected BN manifesto’s pledge to push for greater women participation in politics and decision-making.

“Women, especially from professional backgrounds, can spur the nation’s progress towards meeting its goals in line with the National Transformation 2050 (TN50) initiative.”

Halim said the country recognised women’s ability and role as the backbone in nation-building and development.

He said yesterday’s lineup was the “best blend of men and women” and expertise fielded by BN in facing the general election.

“They have the best brains, best talents and they are the best for everyone.”

BN has yet to announce its candidates for Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, Perak, Kedah, Pahang and Perlis. On Sunday, the coalition announced its candidates for the Federal Territories and Terengganu.

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