GE13 WATCH Sending a strong signal that Jerlun incumbent Mukhriz Mahathir will be menteri besar if BN takes over Kedah, "could sway fence-sitters in favour of BN".

According to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political scientist Samsu Adabi Mamat, this was the feedback received when the university conducted a yet-to-be-published survey in Kedah from January to March.

"The impression given is that to ensure a BN win, the coalition needs to put forth an MB candidate that fence-sitters will find attractive.

NONE"The general sentiment in Kedah is that fence-sitters value Mukhriz's leadership qualities (ketokohan)," he said, noting that fence-sitters in Kedah make up 25 to 30 percent of voters.

Further findings of the survey, conducted by the university with about 3,000 respondents in Kedah, Selangor, Kelantan and Penang, will be presented later this month.

In 2008, Pakatan Rakyat won 20 out of 36 seats, giving it a simple majority in the state assembly, with rival BN controlling 14 seats. Two other seats have independent incumbents.

According to the School of History, Politics and Strategy associate professor, announcing Mukhriz as a state seat candidate would be signal enough for the electorate but could cause some friction among party workers, particularly those from opposing factions.

"But on the whole, this can be resolved quickly as Mukhriz is very popular among the electorate, and has a professional image. The fact that his father is (former premier) Dr Mahathir Mohamad also helps," he said.

azlanMukhriz, who is caretaker deputy minister of international trade and industry, has been widely speculated to be BN's Kedah MB candidate, ahead of Kedah BN liaison chief Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah.

The former is expected to contest in a state seat located under the parliamentary seat ofJerlun, which Mukhriz won with a majority of 2,205.

The state seats under Jerlun are Ayer Hitam, narrowly won by PAS in 2008 andKota Siputeh, a seat held by BN.

Ahmad Bashah, meanwhile, is expected to defend his Bakar Bataseat, which he won with a razor-thin majority of 358 votes.

Both Ayer Hitam and Kota Siputeh are said to be among the 22 seats which BN has declared as "safe", while Bakar Bata is believed to be "grey" as about a third of the electorate are Chinese.

The minority Chinese community since 2008 have largely voted against BN.

'PAS short of potential MB candidates'

Meanwhile, Samsu Adabi said that highlighting an MB-in-waiting will work well for BN in Kedah because PAS "is short of candidates" for the post, if they choose to bench incumbent Azizan Abdul Razak.

"PAS has a shortage of potential MB candidates and this is a problem in view of Azizan's advanced age, which can bring negative connotations," he said.

However, he said, choosing not to field Azizan in a state constituency could heighten infighting at times of battle, as it will confirm that the MB seat is up for grabs.

NONEIt is widely believed that Azizan (left) will not be retained as MB if Pakatan Rakyat wins, mostly due to health reasons.

The 73-year-old suffered a heart attack in 2011 and was hospitalised several times since.

Kedah PAS ulama secretary Syeikh Mohd Zainul Asri Mohd Romli has also reportedly urged Azizan to take a step back due to his poor health.

Names in the mix include Kedah PAS deputy commissioner I Phahrolrazi Mohd Nawawi (below). He is part of the state executive council, but last year refused to be reappointed citing disagreements with Azizan.

He relented and rejoined the exco upon instruction from the central party leadership.

NONE"I heard that I am already dropped from the MB list. I don't even know if I am contesting, either at state or parliament level," he said when contacted by Malaysiakini.

However, sources claim that the engineer by training is still in the MB's post shortlist due to his good ties with the palace.

Other names floated include fellow executive councillor and engineer Amiruddin Hamzah and PAS vice-president Mahfuz Omar, who will be defending his Pokok Sena parliamentary seat.

It is unclear if Mahfuz will also be contesting a state seat as state candidates will be announced at a later date.

Asked if he is indeed in the potential MB list, Mahfuz said: "I don't know. I have never heard of it or discussed it."