The 15th general election (GE15) is still weeks away and the official campaign period has yet to begin, but already, a riot of flags and banners have cropped up in the town of Manjoi – the largest and most populous Malay neighbourhood in Ipoh, Perak.
Located northeast of Ipoh, Manjoi lies in the parliamentary constituency of Tambun and spans some 560.8 hectares, covering Kampung Manjoi, Kampung Tengku Hussein, Kampung Sungai Tapah, Kampung Dato Ahmad Said and Kampung Jelapang Baru.
Speaking at his food stall in Manjoi town, trader Abdul Hamidi said the local economy had declined some 20 years ago, especially in comparison to the nearest city of Ipoh.
Nevertheless, he added, things were now looking up once more, and the majority of residents were either running their own business or involved in the industrial sector.
Still others were working as civil servants in hospitals, schools and government departments.
"We are seeing progress now," he said. "We can make a living even though we work on our own. We can help one another along.
"Look at the big supermarket chains that have set up shop here. If there was no development, they would not have dared to come."
Since 1986 when Tambun was contested as a parliamentary seat for the first time at the seventh general election, he said, the people had been served by representatives from a wide range of political parties.
At the last general election in 2018, it was won by Bersatu's Ahmad Faizal Azumu who beat Ahmad Husni Mohamad Hanadzlah of Umno, marking Barisan Nasional's (BN) first defeat in the seat since GE7.
This time around, the seat will be contested by, among others, Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Anwar Ibrahim, who on Oct 20 voiced confidence that the coalition would win Tambun and the rest of Perak to boot.
The PKR president said Perak would become a developed state like Penang and Selangor if PH was given the people's mandate there in GE15.
But Hamid said such promises made little difference to him.
"The Tambun seat is traditionally won by locals, not outsiders," he said.
"At my stall here, I see representatives go by every day," he added, citing Manjoi assemblyman Asmuni Awi.
"The former BN MPs here, too, we know. The candidates who win and then lose still continue to work as usual, helping the people because they are from around here."
He also questioned Anwar's move to Tambun.
"Why switch places?" he said. "Develop Port Dickson first. How can he bring progress there if he keeps changing spots?"
When asked about the results of the last general election, he said Bersatu's candidate had managed to beat Umno because of PH's revival.
He added that Faizal was well known among the locals as he, too, had come from Manjoi.
"His father is also from around here, as was his grandfather. Even his uncle is known by the villagers," he said.
"Anyone who goes to his house can be sure of a welcome. That's why it's important for us to choose a local, not an outsider. In times of trouble, it's easier to ask them for help."
Meanwhile, a youth who introduced himself as Yatim appeared indifferent to the names of those who would be contesting Tambun in GE15.
When asked about Faizal, he said the Bersatu man was better known in the area as Peja.
Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Yatim said Faizal was a familiar face with nearly everyone in town and was easy to get along with.
He said this was why Faizal had the support of the locals, especially the youth.