Monday, March 08, 2010

MCA: Wheeling and dealing towards polling day

The nominations for the MCA elections are on March 22, followed by polling day on March 28..

stanley koh interview 150108 upfrontThat means a six-day burst of intense campaigning for the presidential post and other top party slots.

But the boycott of the MCA's annual general assemblies by factions against party president Ong Tee Keat, has introduced more complications in the form of disputes over the legality of the weekend's events.

Former MCA HQ Research and Planning Head Stanley Koh (right) shared his views with Malaysiakini on the latest developments taking place.

Malaysiakini: Does the delegate turnout at the annual assemblies of the MCA, Youth and Women's wings over the weekend indicate the political strength of the contending factions in the coming party polls? This is in context of the call by the chiefs of the youth and women's wings to boycott the events.

Koh: I agree with some political observers that it does. I think the dismal turnout of only 87 delegates at the youth assembly spoke volumes of the level of support for the president. It also showed the unity of the youth delegates.

I am not convinced that they did not attend because they feared a witch-hunt. That would be counter-productive in view of the coming party polls. Moreover, delegates nowadays are much more independent in their thinking.

NONEOn the other hand, the women's wing AGM which was attended by more than the minimum quorum of 200, reflected the degree of influence of its chief Chew Mei Fun (left), compared to Youth Chief Wee Ka Siong.

There could be other contributing factors like the efficiency in organising calls or messages to the respective delegates not to attend the assemblies. Don't forget it was all at very short notice.

What about the MCA Assembly?

mca agm 070310 ong tee keat 04Koh: The MCA Assembly can be seen as an indicator of the support for the president, Ong Tee Keat (right).

Out of a total 2,378 MCA central delegates, only 603 attended. Am I right? I have to check with you on the figure since I have been labelled an outdated economist by some unknown critic.

That 603 delegates' turnout exceeded the required quorum of a minimum 200, according to the party constitution.

But I also think those present at the MCA AGM included those who had attended the party anniversary the previous night before. Feedback from some delegates revealed that they are loyal to the party in spite of all the infighting going on.

They felt compelled to attend the party's anniversary celebration dinner and even the assemblies. That might also explain for the case of the higher turnout of the women's wing's delegates.

What about the disputes relating to the legality of the annual general assemblies?

Koh: Questions on legality, I think, should be left to the legal counsels representing the interest of the respective factional leaders.

Having said this, some felt it was politically incorrect to go ahead with these assemblies. Again we have read widely reported explanations from both sides.

Of course, some leaders felt that the annual assemblies could have been after polling day. They rationalised that it would have saved the party from much embarrassment.

For the first time in the party's history, neither the prime minister nor his deputy officiated at the event's opening. There was an absence of BN-invited guests and former MCA presidents. In short, it was considered a black day in MCA's history.

Now that the annual assemblies are over, what comes next?

Koh: Yes, the events are over but the chaos at the AGM could result in a contentious campaigning issue at grassroots level, with accusations and counter-accusations exchanged by the rival factions.

There is also the dispute whether the youth and women's wings should also hold fresh elections.

What else comes next? Firstly, there is no question that everybody should know the dates by now, March 22 is nomination day and March 28 is polling day.

Secondly the various factions have much work ahead of them - planning their campaigns, setting up operations centres, recruiting manpower and of course, finding the financial resources..

Anyone started campaigning yet?

Koh: There is no hard and fast rule unlike in a general election as to when you can start campaigning. It is unlikely any potential candidate will declare his position or intention now.

NONESome potential candidates will prefer to wait for further developments or announcements with regard to the party polls which will be made by the party's secretary Wong Foon Meng (left) this week.

I think the candidates will firm up their decisions to contest later next week.

Actual campaigning to woo votes from central delegates is likely to start after nomination day, but inter-state visits by potential candidates to test voting support especially from their own political home states, may start in a day or two.

If you are a rank-and-file party leader eyeing a normal central committee post, you can travel around the country with your factional chief to size up your support provided you have made up your mind to contest.

How do you read Ong's strong indication of re-contesting the presidency post?

Koh: It's a free-for-all democratic election. Whether he should contest or not, is a separate issue.

In politics, it is the norm for politicians to justify their return citing overwhelming ground support and when they quit, it is common to cite health reasons.

My guesstimate is he has various reasons. He is probably testing the reaction from the ground and moreover, it is not his nature to give his opponents a walkover. Given his combative leadership record, it is expected. Because of this, they have accused him of projecting the role of a 'hero'. So in a psychological sense, it is better to die a hero than walking away as a coward.

Finally, will the fresh party elections resolve the leadership crisis?

Koh: In politics, there is no guarantee. Especially in the MCA. Remember, it has been tagged as the Malaysian Crises Association and lately, the Most Chaotic Association.

Some are already predicting a face-to-face contest between Ong and his former deputy Chua Soi Lek vying for the presidential post?

Koh: In politics, anything is possible but it is too early to predict a direct fight.

Ong has missed his chance to be the greatest president. Of course, he has apologised for making blunders. But in the same breath, he has admitted it was due to his haste in trying to reform the party.

NONEHis critics claimed he is trying to plead for sympathy, projecting more humility and even playing the underdog role in the contest. You would also notice that his speeches are delivered with perceptively less arrogance.

The art of politics, we are told, is in the making of the impossible, possible and the possible, impossible.

Well, former deputy Chua Soi Lek (right) has made the impossible possible, against all odds.

Conversely, we have witnessed Ong, despite being blessed with all advantages of a president in office, messing up whatever was possible, to render it impossible.

news courtesy of Malaysiakini

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