Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Behind the MCA battle lines

Politics is the art of the possible, and that certainly seems to be so as far as the MCA election campaign goes.

Although on the surface some contestants for Sunday's polls claim there is no pact, on the ground the situation is very much different as most of them are believed to have secretly formed alliances among themselves.

ong-chua-ong-mca"The only thing is that they have not announced this openly, for obvious reasons, as they want to garner as many of the delegates' votes as possible without being seen openly backing anybody," said a party insider.

The insider said that from the list of the contestants for the fresh polls, it is obvious that there are three main blocks or political forces vying to helm the 61-year-old party - aligned either to incumbent president Ong Tee Keat, former president Ong Ka Ting or former deputy president Dr Chua Soi Lek.

Tee Keat's camp has only put up two candidates for the four posts of vice-president and about 15 candidates for the central committee (CC) without anybody being nominated for the deputy president's position.

The two candidates for vice-president believed to be aligned to Tee Keat are CC member Gan Peng Shieu and former vice-president Yap Pian Hon, who sent in his nomination papers at the last moment.

Most aligned to certain leaders

Sources said another CC member, Lee Chee Leong, had been designated for a veep post by Tee Keat's camp but Lee decided only to defend his CC post, and this has prompted Yap to be nominated at the last moment, just before nomination closed at 5pm yesterday.

As for Ka Ting's side, it is an open secret that the group is backing former veep Liow Tiong Lai, as the candidate for deputy president, and former CC members Chor Chee Heung, Yeow Chai Tiam, Yew Teong Lock and Wong Siong Hwee.

They also put in about 25 candidates for the CC, headed by Ka Ting's elder brother and former party secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan and Ka Ting's former political secretary Wee Jeck Seng, who is also deputy youth and sports minister.

In Dr Chua's block, they are supporting former vice-president Kong Cho Ha as candidate for deputy president and two former vice-presidents Dr Ng Yen Yen and Donald Lim Siang Chai for vice-president. The other candidate they are backing for vice president is former Sabah MCA chairman Edward Khoo.

As for the CC membership, Dr Chua's camp has put up about 20 candidates, including former CC members Tan Chai Ho, Chong Itt Chew and Loh Seng Kok.

"That explains why you have 86 people contesting for CC (membership) as each side has put up at least 15 to 25 candidates. Very few are on their own, without any alignment," said a party source.

"The only candidate for veep whose stand is not so clear is Loke Yuen Yow although some say that he is in Tee Keat's camp," the source said.

While 10 veep candidates are considered too big a number for four elected positions, it is still not the highest number because in the 1990 party elections, 12 candidates went for the positions.

yap pian hon"Normally, regardless of any number of candidates, it is always those with government positions who stand to have the advantage, such as those holding a minister's or deputy minister's post," said party veteran Yap Pian Hon.

CC contest more complicated

Yap explained that in the October 2008 party elections, all the four vice- presidents voted in were those with high government positions - Kong Cho Ha, Dr Ng Yen Yen, Liow Tiong Lai and Johor executive councillor Tan Kok Hon.

Kong, who received the highest number of votes, was deputy finance minister at that time, Dr Ng was women, family and community development minister, Liow was health minister and Tan was Johor state executive councillor.

"This time around it is different, as among the 10 contestants, only three are holding government positions - Dr Ng (Tourism Minister), Chor Chee Heung (Deputy Finance Minister) and Edward Khoo (Sabah Assistant Minister).

"However, chances are high that at least one of the four vice-presidents will be without a government position," he said.

But for the CC, the situation is much more complicated. Even if the candidates hold government positions, the delegates can easily be confused with the long list of candidates unless they are given a specific list as reference.

"In this case, I won't rule out there being a cai tan (menu) of who should be picked for the CC," added Yap. - Bernama

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