Political Analysis: PKR's dilemma in Tanjong Malim
Written by Chen Shaua Fui of fz.com
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
In part two of a three-part series focusing on the Tanjong Malim parliamentary seat, we look at the challenges facing PKR in picking the right candidate to stand here in the next general election
parliamentary seat, we look at the challenges facing PKR in picking
the right candidate to stand here in the next general election
THE opposition in the Tanjong Malim parliamentary seat has an
unfamiliar problem in the coming general election.
In the 2008 election, the PKR had great difficulty in finding suitable
candidates to field in this semi-urban constituency. Now, it has one
There is a laid back air about Tanjong Malim that hides the intense
political attention that this constituency is attracting. Many people
have left the area for higher education and in search of better job
opportunities. Kuala Lumpur is an accessible 70km from the main town.
The electorate of some 53,000 voters consists of 53% Malays, 28%
Chinese, 14% Indians and 5% others. A local politician says that Malay
voters will decide who wins the coming contest, especially since there
has been an increase of some 2% of their numbers since the last
election, due to a rise in the number of auto workers in the Proton
City in the constituency.
For the PKR, the lesson from the 2008 general election was that it
needed to do the groundwork long before the next election if it hoped
to gain the public’s backing. A young, vocal NGO worker was chosen by
the party to build up support on the ground.
Chua Yee Ling, 29, was selected because of her track record as the
councillor for Hulu Selangor, which is adjacent to Tanjong Malim. She
was also an aide to Selangor state exco member Elizabeth Wong and was
elected to the PKR women’s wing as an exco member in the party’s
election in 2010. Chua was an active member of a youth group,
Youth4Change before she joined politics.
Chua has been working on the ground since two years ago and has built
up a team consisting of young former MCA members. In that time, she
has opened two party branch offices in Tanjong Malim and Bidor towns,
organised fundraising dinners and talks and walkabouts in the Felda
“In these small towns, you have to turn up at weddings, funerals and
any social functions that are going on, so that people get to know you
personally,” she tells fz.com in an interview.
Chua sees some change in the people’s mood in the Malay-dominated Felda areas.
“Previously, we could only turn up at kenduris (feasts). Now, we can
organise ceramah (talks), and the turnout is quite encouraging,” she
Two viable candidates
About a year ago, Chua had to deal with a new factor. Another
potential candidate for PKR appeared in the form of Jeneral (retired)
Datuk Abdul Hadi Abdul Khatab, a retired air force officer.
The local PKR leaders want Chua to contest the seat, as they believe
that a young Chinese leader like her will be able to win Chinese votes
that went to the MCA in 2008.
The PKR Tanjong Malim division chief Mejar (retired) Kamal Badri said
the division had conveyed the message to the party leadership at the
state and national levels.
He said that during the last election, there was no Chinese candidate
from the opposition to contest in the parliamentary and three state
seats – Behrang, Slim and Sungkai – and he believes that this was why
the 1,500 Chinese voters in Slim River did not vote for the PKR.
He said that Chua had been working in the area for a year before Hadi
appeared in the picture, and considered that as “a little bit late.”
Kamal said that the voters have seen Chua as the potential candidate,
and they may not endorse Hadi if he were to stand in her place.
“This will not only affect (Pakatan Rakyat’s chances for) the
parliamentary seat but also the state assembly seats,” said Kamal, who
is the potential candidate to contest in Behrang state seat.
Chua said that the party may be working on the basis that Hadi could
gain the Malay votes in view his rank as a retired general.
Another factor, according to a Perak PKR leader who spoke to fz.com,
is that the seat is being held by a former federal minister, Datuk
Seri Ong Ka Chuan, and the party’s top leadership was concerned that
Chua could be too young to take on a political heavyweight.
On her part, Chua is being supported by the PKR women’s wing to
contest the seat, to meet the 30% women’s candidacy quota set by the
However, she stressed that she has no problem if Hadi is chosen, and
will work hard to make sure the party’s candidate wins the election.
“We have been going to the ground together. Let us compete to win the
chance to stand in the seat,” she said.
Chua also pointed out that, although she and Hadi are competing with
each other, they are united in the aim of making sure the party wins
in the election.
The MCA, however was affected by factionalism, she opined, as Ong Ka
Chuan’s faction and the other division leaders do not work together.
For example, she said, the publicity materials of MCA leaders reflect
this lack of unity. While Ong has his own banner, the MCA Tanjong
Malim Division Chief Loke Yuen Yow’s banner has the party president
Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek’s photo on it.
However, Chua acknowledged that PKR needs to be cautious about the
candidates it fields so as not to repeat its experience with
representatives who have defected.
Since 2008, at least six legislators have left PKR, including Behrang
assembly member Jamaluddin Radzi, and the party’s image has suffered
as the voters have felt betrayed by these defections. The party had
promised to screen its candidates more strictly.
Chua proposed that the party holds a debate between she and Hadi to
see who is more suitable to contest.
The danger in race-based campaigning
Hadi, when contacted, shared Chua’s view, promising that he would work
hard to ensure that whoever contests the seat would win. He said he
has been promoting the party rather than himself personally.
“I’m selling the party, not myself. I think that should be the way,” he said
Hadi, who is a Tanjong Malim resident, had retired from air force five
years ago. He was previously active in Hulu Selangor, and has been a
political activist before he joined PKR last year.
On the view that fielding a Chinese candidate would draw support away
from the MCA, Hadi believed that it was a dangerous strategy, as the
chances would be slim.
He said that if the party plays the race card like the BN, which is to
field a Chinese to contest against a Chinese, the people would say
that the MCA was a better bet for the Chinese.
He believed that when a Chinese candidate was contesting against
another Chinese, the Malay vote would go to the MCA as a BN component,
as the majority in the area were Malays.
Chua said she does not look at the seat from the racial perspective,
rather as a semi-urban seat that is lacking in development and job
The PKR leadership will need to handle the candidacy issue delicately
to build on the groundwork in Tanjong Malim.