KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 – Barisan Nasional (BN), especially MCA, once again has to shoulder a heavy responsibility in wooing the Chinese to its side in the Bukit Gelugor by-election on May 25. Based on Penang BN’s electoral seat distribution, the Bukit Gelugor parliamentary constituency is allocated to MCA, and this means it is going to be the second by-election involving MCA after the Kajang state seat by-election in Selangor on March 23. During the Kajang by-election, MCA under the leadership of Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai went on overdrive in convincing the 15,823 Chinese voters, 40 percent of the electorate, to switch to BN. Though, it was an attempt in futility, there was a silver lining for MCA as the votes for the party increased by seven percent to 25 percent compared with only 18 percent during the 13th General Election.
Nonetheless, as the by-election this time around involves a parliamentary constituency, the second biggest component party within BN has to shoulder a bigger responsibility, especially for the fact that there are three times more Chinese voters in Bukit Gelugor than in Kajang. The Bukit Gelugor parliamentary constituency has 61,112 Chinese voters, representing 74.49 percent of the total electorate. The seat fell vacant following the demise of its incumbent Karpal Singh, 74, following a road accident, on April 17. Karpal Singh, the former DAP chairman, recorded a 42,706 majority, the third highest majority after DAP’s Teresa Kok of Seputeh who garnered a 51,552 majority followed by DAP’s Sim Chee Keong of Bukit Mertajam who garnered a 43,063 majority.
WINNING THE CHINESE HEARTS
On paper, based on the GE13 record, its certainly an uphill task for BN-MCA in winning over the Chinese voters in Bukit Gelugor. However, reducing the opponent’s majority like in Kajang will provide the party with some confidence in making further inroads ahead. Then one may ask as the Bukit Gelugor parliamentary constituency is a DAP stronghold, could MCA ‘steal’ some of the Chinese votes from the opposition? The head of the Politics, Security and International Relations Cluster of the National Professor Council (MPN) Prof Datuk Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak says BN, whether through MCA or Gerakan, faces a tough road as the Bukit Gelugor parliament seat is synonymous with DAP bigwigs. “Moreover, the state government is led by DAP and voters have deep sympathy for Karpal Singh and the seat is a fortress of DAP, ” he said. Penang MCA Liaison Deputy Chief, Tan Teik Cheng notes that the party must have good confidence in pushing its efforts to woo the voters. “If we are to contest, it is a tough road ahead. However, with confidence we may be able to reduce the opponent’s majority,” he adds.
NOT THE TIME FOR A SHOW OF STRENGTH
MCA is in the midst of transformation and thus is not in a formidable position as yet for a show of strength and instead has to make use of the by-election platform to prove its determination in serving the people. “Having said that, I believe BN should not give an easy win to DAP and instead should take on the opponent as an ‘underdog’. It is the right time for MCA to gauge its strength,” he says. Mohamed Mustafa, says no matter what, the Bukit Gelugor by-election is a different ball game altogether compared with Kajang. “In Kajang, the elected representative resigned, thus it is totally different from Bukit Gelugor, which involved the demise of its elected representative. Moreover, as for MCA, unlike Gerakan, Penang is not its stronghold. Thus its not the place to test its strength, ” he said.
PEOPLE’S PERCEPTION ON MCA
After taking a heavy beating in GE13, MCA now faces a poor perception crisis within the Chinese community who remain doubtful on the new leadership and whether the party has overcome all its internal woes. Mohamed Mustafa opines that the Chinese community in the Bukit Gelugor constituency may have second thoughts of voting for MCA especially looking at the fact that the state politics favour DAP. “In the electoral history of Bukit Gelugor, MCA has always been the underdog. Voters will go for DAP due to the sympathy vote factor and in appreciating the deeds of Karpal Singh,” he added. As for Tan, no matter what, MCA is ready to grab the bull by its horns.