Tuesday 13 September 2011

Slim pickings for Umno's allies in GE

It appears there is not much wiggle room for the leaders of Umno's coalition partners in the peninsula, as pressure mounts for them to find suitable seats to contest in the face of possible snap polls anytime from now till next year.

If Umno president and BN chairperson Najib Abdul Razak does indeed call for a general election at the end of this year as speculated, the reading is that things would most likely be sticky at best for the presidents of Umno's four key BN partners - MCA, MIC, Gerakan and PPP.

This is the very first time that the presidents of the four BN component parties will face a general election without being elected representatives themselves, having suffered a near wipeout from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat in the watershed March 2008 polls.

machap by election nomination 030407 mic mca leadersBarring MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek, who did not contest the last time around, the three others - Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon, MIC president G Palanivel and PPP president M Kayveas - all lost in their contests.

Another factor that needs to be considered is whether or not the four parties have managed to reverse the trend of their ebbing popularity among the electorate, which was at rock bottom in 2008, while at the same time keeping their parties in order.

But probably the key issue that each of the four presidents need to deal with is whether or not they are able to negotiate with Umno for the best seats possible for themselves, considering the fact that their political futures could very much hinge on earning themselves seats in Parliament.

Should they fail to win, it would raise the issue of their legitimacy as party presidents and likely embolden an internal revolt among party members to replace them with other leaders.

Malaysiakini spoke to three political analysts - Ong Kian Ming, James Chin and Khoo Kay Peng - for their take on where the four presidents could possible contest and their chances in the next general election.

Dr Chua Soi Lek

Ong Kian Ming: Possible seats - Tanjung Malim (Perak), Tanjung Piai or Kulai (both Johor).

NONEChua would most possibly go for Kulai, where the Chinese form around 60 percent of the electorate. Johor is also an MCA stronghold, and where Chua has his strongest support base. Kulai would kill two birds with one stone, as a win would effectively cull support for former MCA president and rival Ong Ka Ting.

Tanjung Malim would be a viable second option, as being a semi-urban constituency with a Malay majority, it would be a safe seat, banking on Umno support. Likewise with Kulai, a win would derail support for the Ong brothers, as Ong Ka Chuan is the current MP.

James Chin: Possible seat - Labis

Chua had hinted at returning to Labis, but it is entirely up to the Prime Minister and BN chairperson Najib.
chua tee yong interview 110309 01His son, Chua Tee Yong (right), won the seat on support for the father, and since the younger Chua is serving merely as a caretaker, the father would most likely want to go back to his old seat.

However, a definite seat for Chua, as with the three other party presidents, would be difficult to predict as seat allocations would depend on last-minute mass movements of voters by the Election Commission (EC) as the election date nears.

Khoo Kay Peng: Possible seat - Labis

Labis stands to be Chua's best chance, as there is continuity with his son sitting in his place. The younger Chua would most likely move on to try his luck in Bakri. Johor is more manageable for Chua, as he has a lot of support from Umno there.

To try in Perak, Chua would need to gauge his own acceptance by BN members there, which should be calculated based on grassroots support. Perak may not be as accepting as Johor. Even if Chua does not contest Labis, Bakri would be a good test bed to try and wrest the seat back from DAP.

Koh Tsu Koon

Ong Kian Ming: Possible seats - Simpang Renggam (Johor), Segambut (Kuala Lumpur)

penang lim chong eu memorial event 230111 koh tsu koonKoh will most likely go for Simpang Renggam, since it is the only seat currently held by Gerakan. He won't be able to contest in Penang any more, as his time there has run out. Taiping (Perak) will be impossible as current MP Nga Kor Ming from DAP will eat him alive.

Puchong (Selangor) is out of the question, as are Kuala Lumpur seats. His only option in KL/Selangor is Segambut, which is an urban area, but even then the odds are against him.

James Chin: Possible seats - none

Koh's problem is not so much where to stand in the next election, but whether or not he can withstand the internal party coup now. If he survives, he is sure to get a seat.

Khoo Kay Peng: Possible seat - Simpang Renggam

Where Koh will contest all depends on whether he is nudged out of the party over the next couple of months. He is now at the stage of survival, as there is a grand design in place to get rid of him.

He has been getting his people to lobby for him, and Johor Gerakan has asked him to contest in Simpang Renggam. His base in Penang is over.

G Palanivel

Ong Kian Ming: Possible seats - Subang, Kota Raja, Kapar (all Selangor)

NONEPalanivel's situation is tricky. His seat will probably have to be in Selangor, given the fact that no top leader in MIC has a seat in Selangor. It won't be in Hulu Selangor, so he will have to come down to Subang, Kota Raja or Kapar.

Kapar is a big seat which needs a lot of resources. In general, any seat that has PKR is an easier target compared with seats held by PAS. Subang is not as easy to win because it is very much urban, with more sceptical voters.

James Chin: Possible seats - none

Palanivel is popular in MIC, but not outside. His track record in Selangor is dismal. Where he could stand depends on movement of voters on the electoral rolls.

Khoo Kay Peng: Possible seats - Hulu Selangor (Selangor), Sungai Siput (Perak)

Things in Selangor are good, so most likely he would go back to his old seat in Hulu Selangor, but I am not too sure if it is wise to ask the incumbent to leave.

Another place that is quite symbolic is Sungai Siput, which is long associated with the MIC power base.

However, I don't see Palanivel going beyond Selangor, which is his traditional stomping ground. BN would not want its leaders to run and hide in constituencies that are comfortable. Palanivel needs to show he is confident and can take the lead.

M Kayveas

Ong Kian Ming: Possible seats - none

ppp agm pc 190610 najib and kayveasI don't think he will be given a seat due to the turmoil in his party. In Perak, Umno will definitely take back Grik, and Gerakan may get Taiping. I don't see any pressure on Najib to include PPP in the mix. Not to say that Gerakan has a good chance, but there is even less chance for PPP.

James Chin: Possible seats - none

PPP keeps on borrowing seats from other parties. If it wants to contest, it's a matter of finding a party that is willing to 'lend' PPP a seat.

Khoo Kay Peng: Possible seats - none

I don't think the administration sees any benefit to keep a seat for PPP. It will be very tough for Kayveas in that even if PPP is given a seat, it will probably go to a younger candidate. PPP is a sleeper party, and at the end of the day, the political arena has changed.

The KPI for Najib has to be no less than two-thirds. Any less than that and he's on the way out. They have set a precedent that is very tough, and I don't see any room for Kayveas.

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