Teng needs 'wow' factor to turn voter tide

  • PR would have suffered serious losses in 2013 polls if hudud was major issue, says DAP
    PR would have suffered serious losses in 2013 polls if hudud was major issue, says DAP

    Pakatan Rakyat would have suffered devastating setbacks in Perak, Pahang, Negri Sembilan and Melacca if it had made hudud a major issue in last year’s general election, DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang said. The Gelang Patah MP (pic), who had earlier said hudud was never a vote-winner for PAS in previous elections, gave an illustration of how PR... …

  • Court acquits PKR rep, rules 10-day notice in public assembly act ‘unconstitutional’
    Court acquits PKR rep, rules 10-day notice in public assembly act ‘unconstitutional’

    The Court of Appeal today struck out the charge against Selangor's deputy speaker Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad who was charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act for failing to give police a 10-day notice for a rally last year. A three-man bench led by judge Datuk Mohamad Ariff bin Md Yusof also ruled in a unanimous decision today that Section 9 (1) of... …

  • Assembly law cannot criminalise public gatherings, court rules
    Assembly law cannot criminalise public gatherings, court rules

    PUTRAJAYA, April 25 ― The Court of Appeal today unanimously ruled it unconstitutional to criminalise spontaneous public assemblies in breach of the 10-day notice required under the Peaceful... …

  • Albukhary International University withdraws decision to cease operations – Bernama
    Albukhary International University withdraws decision to cease operations – Bernama

    The Albukhary International University (AiU) in Alor Setar, Kedah has withdrawn its decision to cease operations. Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the ministry was informed of the matter by the management of AiU through a letter Wednesday. "With that decision, the matter is no longer an issue," he told reporters... …

  • Jalan Bukit Bintang stretch remains closed to traffic
    Jalan Bukit Bintang stretch remains closed to traffic

    The 500m stretch of Jalan Bukit Bintang (Jalan Tun Razak-bound) between Chulan Square and Menara Worldwide will remain closed to all traffic, said Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp) today. At 10.42pm last night, a sinkhole appeared at the left lane of Jalan Bukit Bintang, said MRT Corp in a statement released this morning. The... …

  • Bible ban in Pahang hotels draws flak
    Bible ban in Pahang hotels draws flak

    Islamic authorities in Pahang have overstepped their jurisdiction by banning non-Muslim religious materials in hotels in the state, say political and religious leaders. The Pahang Islamic and Malay Customs Council's (Muip) recent prohibition is the first ever such ban to be issued in the country involving hotels, and has drawn strong criticism... …

GEORGE TOWN (Feb 5): Back in 2008, few foresaw that the wave of anger in Penang against the Barisan Nasional (BN) would deliver the northern economic powerhouse into the grasp of Pakatan Rakyat.

As the next general election looms, Penang BN chairman Teng Chang Yeow has his work cut out for him in crafting a strategy for BN to win back lost ground and reduce public resentment.

"We know it is not easy to go against the big wave that is ahead of us but we still have to face it," Teng tells fz.com in a recent interview in Penang.

"It is a matter of how you manoeuvre yourself against this strong current that is coming," he says.

In fact, Teng's appointment last April to lead the BN charge in Penang was part of the larger strategy to give the coalition a new lease of life.

After all, the 48-year-old is described as a straight-talking, bold and relatively fresh face in the political landscape. (see biodata)

Four years after BN's great defeat, Teng reckons that the coalition has recovered at least 15% to 20% of the support it lost to Pakatan.

Most of them, Teng says, are members of BN component parties who previously voted for Pakatan out of anger with the then BN leadership.

BN's loss in Penang was largely blamed on the perceived weak leadership of the then BN Penang chairman and Penang chief minister Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon.

Political observers say that with Koh out of the picture, public anger against his leadership appears to have subsided in the state.

Teng believes party members are now slowly returning to the fold.

According to Teng, BN members told him: "We voted for them (Pakatan) in the last round because we were angry with you (BN), but after that, when they became the government, they ran us down. We cannot take it."

In the past few months, BN has been stepping up efforts to win back its members, who Teng says form a substantial voting bloc in the state.

"This is where the mood is slowly shifting. The direction is very clear. Get your own members. If you lose the non-members, you still have members' votes backing you.

"You must do something to let members know you care for them as well, besides telling voters you care for them. This is a group of people who are already yours," Teng said.

The other voter group that Penang BN has its eyes on are Chinese voters in the 40 to 60 age group.

"We are trying our best to let them see that we are different from in the past. We have policies which the present Pakatan-led state government has not been able to produce," Teng said.

The policy focus for BN will be on increasing the availability of affordable housing, addressing traffic congestion and promoting a services-led economy.

Chinese voters are a significant force in Penang, with Chinese-majority constituencies forming over half of Penang's 40 state seats.

There are 23 Chinese-majority state seats, mostly on the island, compared with the 15 Malay-majority seats that are mostly on the mainland.

Winning all the Chinese-majority seats alone is enough for any political coalition to form the Penang government but political observers say a government elected merely on Chinese votes could lack legitimacy.

For now, Chinese voters are said to be largely with  Pakatan, which could prove to be challenging for BN. This means that Penang's 15 Malay-majority seats are likely to be fiercely contested in the upcoming general election.

Teng reckons that middle-aged Chinese voters are more likely to warm up to BN again even as young voters remain a wild card.

"The young ones are a big concern to all of us … The young ones, we are still trying hard. Social media is part of the strategy," Teng said.

Finding safe ground?

Teng has prepared Penang BN's candidate list for BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak's consideration but Teng himself remains notoriously secretive about where he will stand.

Speculation is rife that Teng would return to his Padang Kota state seat which he lost to DAP's Chow Kon Yeow in 2008.

Teng has also been associated with the Sungai Pinang and Datuk Keramat seats but Teng laughs at the mention of any guesses.

The dilemma for Teng is whether he should go to a safe seat: a safe seat could signal a lack of courage on his part but standing in an unsafe seat is a high risk proposition.

Teng's candidly points out that there is really no safe seat for Gerakan and MCA in Penang.

"Which is a safe seat? They are all Chinese seats," Teng says of the constituencies that MCA and Gerakan traditionally contest in.

Indeed, it was the Chinese voters' swing that led to BN's fall in Penang in 2008.

From controlling 38 of the 40 state seats, BN's share was cut to 11 seats, gained through Umno taking the spoils in Malay majority-constituencies.

BN's other component parties – Gerakan, MCA and MIC – were wiped out from the state assembly.

As for where he will ultimately contest, Teng cryptically says that it depends on BN's overall strategy.

When he first took the helm of Penang BN, there were strong views amongst the component parties that Teng must remain in his Padang Kota constituency.

But these views have been replaced by a new consensus that the Penang BN chairman must win a seat, any seat, to retain his credibility.

"We realise that we cannot have that kind of game. That is the old game, old mind frame. You have to have a new mind frame and you need to put your general in to carry through to the next few battles.

"The first criterion is your general must make it in," said Teng.

As Penang BN chief, Teng is tipped to be chief minister should BN wrest back the state. But this also means Teng is often measured up against incumbent chief minister Lim Guan Eng.

Lim's leadership has been credited for making the state more attractive for investment and liveable as well as protecting Penang's heritage.

Penang under the first-term Pakatan government has won praise for improved standards of governance and financial management, as the annual Auditor-General's report has noted.

But Teng is quick to point out that Penang has been well-governed all along, even under BN's administration under Koh, and the latter's predecessor Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu.

The 'wow' list

The new mind frame that Teng talks about is also likely to translate into the Penang BN candidate list, as Teng moves away from the old formula of seat division amongst component parties.

Teng insists that there must be fresh faces among BN's candidate offerings comprising young professionals and grassroots leaders, if they are to convince voters that they have something fresh to offer.

"If we want to win and we want to make a breakthrough, it has to be a bold move. It has to be a different move. There has to be a 'wow' factor. It has to be unthinkable!" Teng says, striking the table to drive home his point.

But to achieve that "wow" factor, Teng needs to get BN component parties on the same page when it comes to proposing their own candidates.

"I've been giving feedback and comments to MCA, Umno and MIC. Whether they take it as sincere comments from me or they take it as interference with their candidate list, I don't bother! I'm just telling you the situation," Teng said.

Teng's biodata for easy reading and a quick reference of things you may not have known

about him.

Teng however is not worried about whether BN has enough "big name" candidates in Penang to take on Pakatan leaders including opposition personalities like Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng, DAP chairman Karpal Singh, Bukit Mertajam MP Chong Eng and even Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

"There is a Chinese saying, 'Use a small knife to chop off a big tree'. At times, we have to find small knives … The candidate must excite the imagination of voters," says Teng.

At the end of the day, will Teng's strategy help BN recapture Penang? Teng doesn't hazard an answer for now.

"I am a general. I don't go into a battle to not win. Every general who leads a team wants to win.

"I told my members very clearly, it's not whether we will capture the state now or later. The issue confronting us now is we must go into the battlefield with the mindset to win," Teng said.

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.

  • MH370 passenger’s partner tells of strange email from sacked Fox officer The Malaysian Insider
    MH370 passenger’s partner tells of strange email from sacked Fox officer

    The partner of an American passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has spoken about how a Fox executive who was recently sacked by the news station had contacted her offering to raise funds on her behalf. Sarah Bajc, whose partner Philip Wood is among the 239 people on board the missing plane, told the Sydney Morning Herald... …

  • My last moments with Pa: Ramkarpal Singh The Malaysian Insider
    My last moments with Pa: Ramkarpal Singh

    A week after the tragic crash that took the lives of veteran lawyer and politician Karpal Singh and his personal aide, Michael Cornelius, his son Ramkarpal recounts the final hours with his father that fateful day. This is his story, as told to V. Anbalagan, assistant news editor. “My parents (Karpal and Gurmit) had gone to Pantai Hospital... …

  • In Disney's shadow, homeless families struggle Associated Press
    In Disney's shadow, homeless families struggle

    KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — When they moved from Georgia to the theme park playground of central Florida four years ago, Anthony and Candice Johnson found work at a barbecue restaurant and a 7-Eleven. Their combined salaries nevertheless fell short of what they needed to rent an apartment, so the couple and their two children have instead been hopping among cheap motel rooms along U.S. 192. …