By Joan Lau
The next general election is expected to be the closest fight to form the new government. And several seats across the nation are likely to see heated battles with the victor winning by the slimmest of majorities. The Malaysian Insider takes a look at some of these hot seats in what will be an intense election for control of Malaysia.
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 — Mention Pandan to any political pundit and the conversation will inevitably meander to the RM64 million question: will Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat be contesting?
It is no secret that the Pandan MP is not exactly a favourite of MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek and most political observers think it is not likely that Chua will voluntarily field Ong in Pandan — or any seat for that matter — in the next general election.
In the past two years, the 56-year-old Ong has also been outspoken about many issues linked to Barisan Nasional (BN) including the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ). All this has not endeared him to many people in the ruling coalition. In fact, there has been much speculation that he will leave the MCA and join the opposition but nothing of the sort has come to pass.
Still, there is no denying the best chance for BN to retain the seat is to field Ong especially now that PKR’s strategy director Rafizi Ramli is slated to contest in Pandan.
Rafizi, 35, who in the last year has made a name for himself with a series of exposes like the National Feedlot scandal, is already a household name with his many appearances in the media and various opposition ceramahs around the country.
But Ong — the former MCA chief — is immensely popular in the constituency where he has been MP since 2004. When his constituents — 49.34 per cent Malays and 45.04 per cent Chinese — need help, he is THE man they turn to. Even during the political tsunami that was GE12, he retained his seat with an increase in number of votes while the two state assembly seats fell to the opposition.
MCA leaders have remained silent on whether Ong will run in Pandan but it is well known that Umno insiders feel it is important to field Ong as he has the best chance of denying Rafizi a seat in Parliament.
They feel that Rafizi — should he become an MP — will stir things up too much in the august House as he seems to be the “go to” guy for whistleblowers. If Ong is the man the community in Pandan turn to when they need help, Rafizi is the man whistleblowers contact when it comes time to expose irregularities in government.
So now we have a situation where a Malay party, Umno, is backing a Chinese candidate who does not have the support of his own Chinese party, the MCA.
But what will the people who live in Pandan think? Pandan, of course, is on the “wrong” side of Ampang; instead of the upper-class neighbourhood of Ukay Heights and Bukit Antarabangsa or the many embassies and residences of diplomats in the Jalan U Thant area, Pandan is working class.
For them, bread-and-butter issues are top of mind. They want an MP who is not afraid to get his hands dirty, who listens to them and who helps them sort out problems that are both personal and general.
Ong is no absentee MP and has proven himself time and again with the constituents. Still, Rafizi has lost no time in making his presence felt in Pandan. His “boys” have gone to the ground and Rafizi himself has made the rounds of the area.
PKR insiders admit that this seat will not be easy to wrest away from Ong should he run again. “There is a small sliver in the constituency near Cheras which is a newer area... the people there are not from the Pandan area... this is our best chance to swing the voters here to Rafizi,” said someone close to Rafizi’s camp.
A senior MCA member disclosed that the prime minister himself has given instructions that Ong be fielded in GE13.
Is Pandan a done deal if Ong stands for election? Not necessarily so. “It depends on how the people feel on the day,” says another veteran MCA man.
Wise words indeed. After all, the MCA’s Datuk Lee Hwa Beng — a popular state assemblyman in Subang — was one of the casualties of GE12. He lost to PKR’s untested and unknown Loh Gwo Burne.