Wong Choon Mei
“The voting pattern does not show any cohesion but a lot of confusion. In fact, there is no forward direction at all,” PAS strategist Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad told Harakahdaily.
“I think MCA is just like Umno, a party trapped in the old paradigm with too much business interests intertwined into its political and operational decisions. Soi Lek has a tough, perhaps impossible task. If he fails to persuade the factions to unite, MCA will really fall into oblivion this time.”
Needs new blood
Formed in 1949, the uni-racial MCA or Malaysian Chinese Association is the second largest component party in the Umno-dominated Barisan Nasional coalition.
Through the decades, its once-mighty political influence has fizzled as top leaders courted Umno and wooed the Chinese business clans and associations, forsaking in the process the political aspirations of the average individual in the community.
On Sunday, Chua beat off a surprisingly strong fight from former MCA president Ong Ka Ting, garnering 901 votes against the latter’s 833, while incumbent Ong Tee Keat could only snatch 578 votes.
But in the race for the No. 2 position, it was Ka Ting’s protégé Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai who won. Liow beat Soi Lek’s running mate Kong Cho Ha by 1,171 to 1,106 votes.
“I think it is very clear that Datuk Chua and Datuk Liow cannot work well together. In fact, they belong to opposing camps. So I think the power the struggle in the MCA will continue,” PAS vice president Salahuddin Ayub told Harakahdaily.
“And this is bad for MCA. What it needs are young Turks, new blood to revamp itself – otherwise it will only be meaningful to its own members but completely irrelevant to the rest of the country and the Chinese community.”
Three major factions
Indeed, Salahuddin’s words were echoed by other pundits who highlighted the narrow winning margins. In the end, Chua only managed to trump a retired Ka Ting by 68 votes, while Liow bested Kong by just 65 votes.
The results underscore the deep splits in the party – with three major factions now clearly visible. And with another party election due by October 2011, the infighting can only worsen.
According to party watchers, leaders elected this round can be expected to pay lip service to closing ranks and focus their attention on building their own support bases rather than plan for the MCA’s future.
“What MCA need is fresh faces, untainted personalities and transformation leadership. It is time for a leader who can help to transform the party and maybe end its racial political model,” said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.
“MCA can be more embracing by accepting other races especially in urban areas. The contest for urban multiracial support is still wide open. Malaysians yearn for a trustworthy and solid non-racial party.”
Four vice-presidents were also voted in - Dr Ng Yen Yen, who top-scored with 1,528 votes, Donald Lim with 1,469 votes, Chor Chee Heung and Gan Ping Sieu with 1,202 votes each.
The poll’s divisive outcome will also put pressure on Wanita Chief Chew Mei Fun and Youth Chief Wee Ka Siong, who earlier on Sunday twittered "I hope after today no more party crisis".
Chew had threatened to quit if Chua won and all eyes are on whether she will carry out her vow, even though Chua has offered the olive branch.
"There will be support from all parties to move forward inclusively and collectively. We will listen to the grassroots. Our work begins today,” Chua told reporters.
All eyes will also be on Prime Minister Najib Razak, who had encouraged the MCA party polls, and on the type of cabinet reshuffle that he may make following the latest results.
Already, there is speculation that Tee Keat, the transport minister, and Kong, the housing and local government minister, will lose their portfolios respectively.
“Najib is now in an unenviable position. Any hopes he may have for a stronger MCA and a stronger BN have been dashed. Chua and Liow are regarded as his blue-eyed boys. It won’t be easy for them to shrug off the label that they are his puppets,” said Dr Dzulkefly.
(Wong Choon Mei is the Consultant Editor for Harakahdaily - English Edition)