KUALA LUMPUR - AFTER reclaiming Perak from the opposition, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition is widely believed to be eyeing Kedah next.
It will be a greater achievement if BN can pull it off, as the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) holds an eight-seat majority in Kedah's legislative assembly, compared with a five-seat majority in Perak.
Kedah, along with Perak and Selangor, has always been suggested as an opposition-controlled state that could fall through defections.
With Perak returning to BN's control, the media spotlight has turned to Kedah, which already has one assemblyman reportedly missing - the same thing that happened to Perak assemblymen Mohd Osman Jailu and Jamaluddin Radzi before their defections.
The northern state of Kedah fell to Pakatan in the general elections last March, when it won 22 seats in the state assembly, leaving BN with only 14.
The magic figure being bandied around now is five - the number of Pakatan assemblymen needed to defect to tip the scales 19-17 back in favour of BN.
Chinese dailies Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press have even gone so far as to name six potential defectors - five from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and one from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) - although there is no evidence of this.
PKR assemblymen Lim Soo Nee and Tan Chow Kang told reporters last week that they have been offered 'millions' many times by an unidentified man to leave Pakatan and go independent.
Then last Friday, Mr V. Arumugam, another PKR lawmaker, was said to have gone missing, merely days after he had lodged a police report claiming he had received kidnapping threats.
In a statement released when he filed the police report, Mr Arumugam claimed the threats were made to force him to leave PKR and join BN.
Mr Arumugam ran as an independent candidate in the general election but he joined PKR after winning his seat.
But PKR has scrambled to quash the latest defection rumours. Kedah PKR MP Ahmad Kasim told China Press that Mr Arumugam's 'disappearance' was, in fact, planned by the party. He claimed Mr Arumugam was told to lie low for a while due to rumours of his defection.
'It's temporary. Select party leaders know where he is,' said Mr Ahmad.
Separately, Kedah Menteri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak has said his men are ready for BN. He told reporters over the weekend that it was not surprising to see BN target Kedah, having tasted success in Perak.
Independent pollster Merdeka Centre director Ibrahim Suffian said BN would have to think hard before making a concerted push for Kedah 'because of all the unhappiness surrounding their recapture of Perak'.
'But the numbers needed in Kedah are not impossible - and BN might ultimately be thinking of their survival first,' he told The Straits Times.
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