Friday, March 05, 2010

Chua is front-runner in race for MCA chief

Even as the dust has hardly settled following the shocking resignation yesterday of 21 MCA central committee members, power brokers in the second largest BN party are already making deals on who should go for the presidency in the fresh party polls set for March 28.

The resignation of the 21 CC members barely two days to the party's 61st anniversary has forced the fresh polls, required by the party constitution to be held within 30 days should two-thirds of the 31 elected CC members resign.

Party sources said it would be interesting to see how the various political forces in the party work out their strategies over the next few days, primarily in relation to the post of president, a position that will give the elected individual command over vast party resources including financial assets exceeding RM2 billion.

The party is literally divided into at least four political forces.

NONEOne group is headed by incumbent president Ong Tee Keat, another by deputy president Dr Chua Soi Lek, and the third by vice-president Liow Tiong Lai while the fourth is linked to former president Ong Ka Ting and his elder brother Ong Ka Chuan.

Puchong MCA division vice-chairman Theng Book said Chua has the biggest support, with at least one third of the party delegates behind him while the other delegates were very much divided.

He rated the level of support as 20 percent for Tee Keat, 30 percent for Liow and 50 percent for Chua, with Ka Chuan throwing his support behind Liow's group.

A party source explained that Chua's decision to resign along with seven other CC members has basically opened up the field, where everybody has a fair chance to contest the presidency.

"No single force can capture or retain the presidency without the support of another group. Therefore, it would be very interesting to see who will work with whom to form a pact in this elections," it said.

"Should Dr Chua decide to go for the presidency, I don't think Ka Chuan's group will support him. Unless, he (Chua) decides to support somebody to be party president. If that is going to be the case, who will that person be?" the source said.

Chua-Liow team likely

It would not come as a surprise if Chua teams up with Liow's group and they back each other for the party presidency or deputy presidency or by fielding a neutral candidate, such as vice-president Dr Ng Yen Yen.

If they decide to back Ng, it will be the first time in the party's history that a woman is nominated for the position, but some party insiders remain cautious on whether the delegates, a majority of whom are men, are ready to accept a woman as party president.

"There is also the possibility that former party president Ong Ka Ting or his elder brother Ong Ka Chuan (the former secretary-general) will be nominated for the party presidency. However, it all depends on how the bargaining and politics of alignment are being worked out," said an insider.

Political analysts believe that Chua's decision to resign was triggered by the fact that he could not work with Tee Keat any more and not because he had secured a pact with Liow.

"It is an open secret that the Ong-Chua combination was very fragile," said political analyst Cheah See Kian.

mca chinese new year tv advertisement 240210 01Another party insider pointed out that signs of a breakup were already there for quite a while. For example, Chua was not visible at some functions and when he was present, he would leave before the function ended. In some cases, he and Tee Keat would not even exchange words.

"The clearest evidence of this was noticed at the MCA Chinese New Year gathering for the media recently. Dr Chua came early and left before Tee Keat arrived. Another indication was when Chua turned down the offer to be chairman of Star Publications," said the insider.

Some media were tipped off last week about the imminent breakup to be announced just before the party's annual general meeting scheduled for March 7.

Direct presidential election

A party insider also pointed out that the timing of the resignations was such that they wanted to capitalise on the existing 2,400 central delegates instead of waiting for the proposed direct presidential election, which will widen the voting base once it is adopted at next year's party elections.

Tee Keat proposed a resolution to open up voting for the presidential election to a wider group of party members instead of the 2,400 central delegates as is the current practice. This resolution to open up voting is scheduled to be tabled at the AGM.

"One of the things he wanted to do since becoming president was to give the grassroots more voting powers by enlarging the voters' pool in time for the next party elections.

"If there is a large pool as compared to the 2,400 central delegates who are aligned to different leaders and factions, Tee Keat would have a better chance as he has always been regarded as a lone ranger in the party," the insider said.

Therefore, without the direct presidential system, it would be an uphill battle for Tee Keat unless he can secure the support of some political forces in the party, similar to what happened in the 2008 party elections when he won the presidency.

As for now, as pointed out by party veteran Yap Pian Hon, there is still no real alignment among factions in the party as most of them are still in the process of working out the arrangements.

"Their only common ground is to hold a fresh elections for the main body. Once the fresh polls is in place, it is open for all. Alignments can change again for the common interest in order to secure better chances to win in this elections," Yap said.

- Bernama

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