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Tanjung Piai: an opportunity for MCA and Malaysia

  • Tanjung Piai offers not just an opportunity for MCA but also Malaysians as a whole.

By Koh Chiew Heong

The sudden death of deputy minister in the prime minister's department Md Farid Md Rafik created the ninth by-election after the May 9 general elections last year.

The Tanjung Piai by-election offers an unexpected opportunity for MCA to stage a comeback after the party's humiliating defeat last year.

MCA contested in 40 parliamentary seats in GE14. Then vice secretary-general Wee Jeck Seng lost to PPBM's Md Farid in his failed re-election bid by a thin 524-majority, the smallest among the 39 parliamentary seats the party lost.

PAS vice president Mohd Amar Abdullah said his party would support MCA if its candidate were to be fielded on BN ticket in Tanjung Piai, giving MCA a much needed morale booster.

Wee had served the constituency for two terms from 2008 to 2018. Even though 95% of Chinese Malaysian voters went for Pakatan Harapan in GE14, according to MCA's analysis, Wee won some 30% of Chinese votes in Tanjung Piai, showing that his effort and contribution were indeed appreciated by the voters there.

With many voters now unhappy with PH administration's performance, in particular the Chinese who are so frustrated with the government's failure to protect their rights, Wee's chances of winning have significantly increased.

Of course, one prerequisite is that Umno must first hold back its arrogant attitude in trying to get its own candidate fielded in Tanjung Piai at the expense of MCA. Even before the election war has started, there are already internal conflicts between MCA and Umno.

To be fair, there have been a good deal of good MCA leaders who loyally served their constituents in the past. Anticipating a change in the federal government in GE14, voters had to sacrifice some really outstanding MCA reps and turn the party into an opposition. One of the reasons for this was Umno hegemony that had for so long oppressed the much weaker MCA, making it very difficult for the party to defend the rights of Chinese Malaysians.

Umno and PAS, which have been loudly championing the rights of Malay-Muslims for so long, have officially sealed their cooperation. The fact that MCA has opted to remain in the BN coalition to safeguard the country's pluralistic society despite strong resistance from the local Chinese community, is becoming increasingly unconvincing.

And now, with Umno eyeing to field a candidate in Tanjung Piai, it shows that the party has not picked up a lesson after losing the last election.

If Umno continues to behave in such haughty manner, denying MCA to contest in a constituency with 41% Chinese voters, how will MCA convince the community that it will fight for their rights?

If an opposition party that does not have access to government resources can be this arrogant, can the local Chinese community pin their hopes on MCA in the event BN makes it to Putrajaya again in future?

As for DAP which boasts 42 seats in the parliament, the party used to hit out very hard at MCA for being powerless in defending the rights of the Chinese community during BN's time, but has itself now become submissive to PM Mahathir from the “bumi-first” PPBM, after winning the 14th general elections.

MCA must contest, and must field a winnable and well-known candidate in Tanjung Piai. This by-election will put the party's dignity to test, by saying a decisive “no” to Umno. The party has to prove either it can win an election only with the help of Malay votes in order to fulfill its aspiration of defending the Chinese community's rights, or win the battle through their own service and track record.

Of course the same battle will also put the Umno-PAS alliance to test as well as the dominant voting trend among the local Chinese.

It is going to be a war to determine whether MCA should be given an opportunity to serve the constituents and that the party can win on its own with Wee Jeck Seng as an independent candidate despite opposition from Umno, or will run in Tanjung Piai only on BN ticket with Umno's nod.

If MCA has missed the golden opportunity to exit BN after GE14, Tanjung Piai could be another chance for the party to do so.

Of the 222 parliamentary seats up for grabs in GE14, 106 were Malay-majority. This shows that no parties can win the election with the support of only one particular ethnic community.

If MCA's candidate eventually wins as an independent in Tanjung Piai, it shows that the party can actually win on its own without the endorsement of BN and may also be able to capture a couple more seats with at least 40% Chinese voters in the next general elections, and then use this as a chip to negotiate with any party to form a coalition government. Perhaps this may play a pivotal role in redrawing the nation's political map.

Malaysians can drop the old coalition, such that after winning the election, some parties may have to abandon their own principles for the sake of the big picture. The same can happen to any political party. It doesn't matter if a party is embracing a racial, multiracial, religious, or Malaysians-first roadmap, we should perhaps just let Malaysia's political parties take their own course in developing a brand new political landscape come GE15.

Some 95% of Chinese Malaysians voted for PH in GE14 with the hope they could see a fairer and better Malaysia. After a change of government and after experiencing the shortlived feel-good illusion of New Malaysia as well as limitations of DAP, perhaps Malaysians can choose more freely in the next general elections without having to bear the burden of an unrealistic aspiration.

Political parties should set out their principles, serve the people and convey their voices dutifully in order to win the hearts of voters through actions.

Tanjung Piai offers not just an opportunity for MCA but also Malaysians as a whole.

(Koh Chiew Heong is a freelance journalist and producer.)


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