MERSING, Feb 13-- The Barisan Nasional (BN) welcomes the decision by the Election Commission (EC) to hold by-elections for Bukit Gantang in Perak and Bukit Selambau in Kedah, simultaneously on April 7.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also BN chairman, said the coalition was confident of wresting the two seats from the opposition and would make preparations to face the two by-elections.
"The chances of winning (the two by-elections) are bright. What is needed is to plan the campaign well, work hard and cooperate well. Avoid infighting, everyone must wholeheartedly support the candidates selected," he told reporters after witnessing an amphibious assault demonstration by commandos from the Iskandar Camp here Friday.
Abdullah, who is also Defence Minister, said that although nomination for the two by-elections would be held on March 29, a day after Umno's general assembly, it would not pose any problem for Umno.
In fact, he said, it would give an opportunity to Umno members to give their full attention to facing both by-elections.
"With Umno's elections over, the members will be free to fully focus on the by-elections. This is good for us," he said.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof had announced the dates for the two by-elections at a press conference in Putrajaya today.
According to the Prime Minister, the BN's defeats in the Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu by-elections had served as useful lessons to the coalition and that it would be better prepared this time around.
He also said the BN members were in much higher spirits now following the success of the BN in forming the government in Perak.
"There is renewed commitment to serve the people even better. It augurs well for the BN," he said.
On the choice of candidates for the two constituencies, Abdullah said it was the practice of the BN to field candidates from the component parties allocated the seats.
"The selected candidate must give the best service to the people irrespective background or race," said Abdullah.
Asked about calls by various non-governmental organisations for Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to apologise for adopting a non-committal attitude to the unruly incidents that took place in Perak last week, Abdullah said Anwar should understand he had made a mistake but it was up to the opposition leader whether he wanted to apologise or not.
"The Royal institution must be protected because it is enshrined in the Constitution. Their role is specified and we must respect it," he said.
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