Batu Pahat likely pick for Soi Lek's comeback

  • 100 protest against Obama visit in front of US embassy
    100 protest against Obama visit in front of US embassy

    About 100 activists today protested outside the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur against the coming visit by President Barack Obama, denouncing him as an enemy of Islam. The demonstration underscored the delicate nature of Obama's trip to Malaysia, which will make him the first sitting US president to visit in nearly half a century, a period marked... …

  • Anger against Johor football club could eventually affect BN, ex-minister says
    Anger against Johor football club could eventually affect BN, ex-minister says

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 — Growing anger towards royalty-backed Johor Darul Takzim Football Club (JDT), triggered by claims of preferential treatment by the authorities, could spread towards the... …

  • The Economist hails Karpal as a rarity in politics
    The Economist hails Karpal as a rarity in politics

    The Economist has described Karpal Sigh as a "rarity in the venomous world of Malaysian politics" for commanding respect from both his peers as well as his opponents. In an obituary titled “Burning Bright”, the international politics and business weekly said condolences to Karpal's family have poured in from across the political spectrum,... …

  • Malaysia among world’s most morally conservative countries, poll finds
    Malaysia among world’s most morally conservative countries, poll finds

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 — Malaysia is among the world’s most morally conservative countries, with strong opposition to issues involving sex, gambling and consumption of alcohol, according to a... …

  • Convicting Anwar quickly was done in public interest, says Court of Appeal
    Convicting Anwar quickly was done in public interest, says Court of Appeal

    In convicting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy last month, the Court of Appeal said it was in the public interest that criminal appeals be dealt with by as swiftly as possible. In the joint judgment by a three-man bench led by Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi, it said delays brought the administration of justice into disrepute. "As is often pointed... …

  • In Malaysia, very few politicians who stand up for their principles
    In Malaysia, very few politicians who stand up for their principles

    Most Malaysian politicians fail the first test of being like Karpal Singh (pic) – standing up for his principles. In the wake of some incendiary statements by Datuk Zulkifli Noordin and the Langkawi MP Datuk Nawawi Ahmad following the death of the veteran opposition stalwart, ordinary Malaysians, several lawmakers and Youth and Sports Minister... …

ANALYSIS Batu Pahat in Johor caught public attention last month when Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yaim revealed that a survey by his ministry showed that this parliamentary constituency has been categorised as a 'black seat' for BN.

Three others  have also been similarly tagged in this southern state which has always prided itself as a BN stronghold - Kluang, Bakri and Gelang Patah.

Rais' statement also set tongues a'wagging that MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek would be the BN's 'white knight' to defend Batu Pahat, the state's second largest town, and thereby opening door to his return to Parliament and the cabinet.

Born and educated in Batu Pahat, Chua served as a medical officer at its General Hospital and later opened a clinic there, before building up his political base in the town that is famous in Johor for its nasi briyani and asam pedas fish.

Not surprisingly, Chua is popular there. Most Batu Pahat folk will give the thumbs up when asked about the contributions of the four-term Penggaram assemblyperson and three-term Johor exco member - before they joke about his sex DVD that was secretly recorded in the town's top hotel in 2007.

Penggaram is one of the three state seats under the Batu Pahat parliamentary constituency. Chua enjoyed an over 10,000-vote majority in all his four electoral victories in Penggaram, before switching to the Labis parliamentary constituency in 2004.

But how did Batu Pahat, the birthplace of Umno, turn black for  the BN?

The current Batu Pahat MP is Puad Zarkashi ( right ) of Umno, who replaced Junaidy Abdul Wahab in the last election and was subsequently appointed deputy education minister by Prime Minister Najib Razak, despite Puad being a first-term MP.

Puad bagged a substantial majority of 12,704 votes in the 2008 polls but his performance was pale in comparison with his predecessor's majority of 29,102 at the 2004 general election.

The staggering plunge of over 16,000 votes is believed to be caused by the Chinese electorate, making up nearly half of the voters in the constituency.

Batu Pahat is a mixed constituency, with 53.1 percent Malay, 44.6 percent Chinese, and 1.8 percent Indian voters (2008 figures).

Penggaram, which covers the Batu Pahat town centre, is the state seat with highest number of Chinese voters - at 61.82 percent (latest figure).

According to local community leaders, Puad failed to garner the support of the Chinese because of the proposals he raised during his stint as Batu Pahat town councillor,said to be unfavourable to the Chinese community.

Growing anti-establishment sentiment

The anti-establishment sentiment among Johoreans, who for long have been staunch BN supporters, continued to mount after the last election, especially among the Chinese voters in urban areas such as Penggaram.

Pakatan Rakyat has since listed Johor as a frontline state for the coming general election battle and has deployed national leaders to bombard the state with almost daily ceramah, inviting aggressive counter-responses from parties in the ruling coalition, which at times turned ugly .

In Batu Pahat, opposition ceramah featuring top Pakatan leaders have drawn unprecedented crowds. The latest, in Batu Pahat's industrial zone of Sri Gading last Saturday by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, drew a crowd of more than 2,000 people.

"Many of our family members and friends in Batu Pahat also see a big difference among the voters," said PKR Wanita central committee member Chua Yee Ling, who is from Batu Pahat.

Another factor encouraging Umno to hand its traditional seat to MCA in exchange for a safer seat is the popularity of Batu Pahat PKR division chief and central leadership council member Syed Hamid Ali, a younger brother of former PKR deputy president Syed Husin Ali.

Syed Hamid ( left ), who is popularly known in Batu Pahat as Pak Hamid, was a student leader in the late 1960s, before he escaped arrest and joined the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) in the jungles.

He spent some years in exile before resettling in Malaysia in 1991 following the peace treaty between the government and CPM.

The 69-year-old veteran, whose wife is Chinese, is reportedly well received by the Chinese community.

He has been politically active in the constituency and is often seen with potential DAP and PAS election candidates in their door-to-door visits, portraying the image of a united opposition coalition, that is sorely lacking within local BN parties.

Although his leftist political background earns him the respect of members from his own party and other component parties, especially DAP, it may be a stumbling block if he tries to garner the support of the older Malay voters of Batu Pahat, the birthplace of right-wing nationalist party Umno, which was formed in 1946.

Chua formidable in hometown

However, many political observers believe, for various reasons, Chua would score an easy victory should he contest in Batu Pahat.

Among them are the formidable Batu Pahat MCA division, which has been helmed by him for more than 20 years, and his contributions to the town, especially the multi-million ringgit flood mitigation project implemented when he was a state exco member.

Also seen as very important is that his candidacy will help win back the ebbing support of the Chinese voters, the Achilles' heel of Umno.

The impact of Chua's sex DVD scandal on Malay voters is considered minimal in the constituency where Umno commands a strong election machinery and where the majority of the Malay voters are proud and thankful to the party.

In return, Puad may move to Ayer Hitam, the adjacent parliamentary constituency held by deputy education minister and MCA Youth chief Wee Ka Siong ( left ), who won with a respectable majority of 13,909 votes in the last general election.

The local Umno division has been lobbying to contest this more rural constituency as it has more Malay voters at 55.5 percent, while Chinese voters make up 40 percent (2008 figures). Puad will undoubtedly enjoy a better chance in Ayer Hitam.

According to an MCA insider, Wee, an outspoken and articulate youth leader who is well known among the Chinese voters, may be deployed to defend 'tougher to win' MCA constituencies such as Kulai or Tebrau.

Wee is Johor Baru MCA division chief and part of the state capital falls under Tebrau, the parliamentary seat held by another party leader, Teng Boon Soon, who has announced his intention to step down when his current term ends.

"If Wee is defeated, it may be good for Chua because his son, Tee Yong, will have one fewer competitor in the party echelon," said the party insider.

Tee Yong ( right ) was elected to Parliament in 2008, taking over his father's Labis seat, and was recommended by his father to be made deputy agriculture and agro-based industries minister when Najib reshuffled the cabinet in June 2009.

Both Tee Yong and Wee are seen as rising stars in the MCA.

However, Najib may not be too keen to field both father and son as parliamentary candidates, for he may have to appoint both of them as minister and deputy minister, if many of the MCA candidates fail to survive the next election.

"Umno always says PKR is a family party, Najib cannot do the same in his own cabinet," said an MCA observer.

Follow @YahooMalaysia on LINE for daily news updates.

Comments on Yahoo pages are subject to our link to Comments Guidelines. You are responsible for any content that you post. Yahoo is not responsible or liable in any way for comments posted by its users. Yahoo does not in any way endorse or support comments made by its users.

  • Langkawi BN MP pokes fun at Karpal Singh’s remains The Malaysian Insider
    Langkawi BN MP pokes fun at Karpal Singh’s remains

    As the nation mourns the passing of a great politician, BN MP Datuk Nawawi Ahmad insulted the late Karpal Singh by posting a picture of the veteran politician's blood-smeared face as he lay in his Toyota Alphard following a tragic accident this morning. Along with the Facebook picture was a newspaper cutting on Karpal being opposed to the... …

  • Karpal makes last journey home to Penang The Malaysian Insider
    Karpal makes last journey home to Penang

    Amid tears of sorrow, a coffin bearing Karpal Singh's body was loaded onto a van for his final journey back to Penang today. The 73-year-old, popularly known as the "Tiger of Jelutong", died early this morning after the Toyota Alphard he was in collided with a five-tonne Mitsubishi Canter. Karpal's body had been brought to Raja Permaisuri... …

  • Told to ‘shut up’ on Twitter, Zul Noordin lashes back at Khairy The Malay Mail Online
    Told to ‘shut up’ on Twitter, Zul Noordin lashes back at Khairy

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 — A feud is breaking out between former Perkasa vice president Datuk Zulkifli Noordin and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin on Twitter. Told unequivocally by the minister... …