Political Analysis: PKR's dilemma in Tanjong Malim

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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

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

too many.

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

settlements.

“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

says.

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

party.

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

opportunities.

The PKR leadership will need to handle the candidacy issue delicately

to build on the groundwork in Tanjong Malim.

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