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Sunday, May 29, 2011

BN needs new blood for a fighting chance in Penang

It boils down to the Chinese votes and this is where Gerakan and MCA must think outside of the box to regain support.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang PPP is appealing to Gerakan and MCA to field new blood in most of the state seats that the two parties intend to contest in the next general election.

Although PPP technically has no seats in Penang, it is a strategic ally to Barisan Nasional (BN), so it wants the coalition to do well, its chairman Dr Loga Balan Mohan says.

He said that an injection of new blood, particularly among young BN leaders, is seen as crucial for the coalition to have a “fighting chance” to regain the Pearl of the Orient from Pakatan Rakyat.

Loga Balan admits that presently, BN is the underdog in the next election, as Pakatan continues to enjoy popular support among the electorate in Penang, particularly among the Chinese.

PPP’s contention is a sizeable number of Malay voters would be returning to BN, or chiefly Umno while the Indian community here remains split between the national coalition and the opposition.

“It boils down to the Chinese votes and this is where Gerakan and MCA must think outside of the box to regain support.”

The first step, is to parade and expose new blood, the young leaders who are now waiting in the wings to be given an opportunity, he said.

There is a consensus brewing among political observers here that Gerakan president Dr Koh Tsu Koon and the state chairman Dr Teng Hock Nan remain highly unpopular among the electorate, perhaps for overstaying their tenure in the previous state government.

As for MCA, the bitter clash between Pandan MP Ong Tee Keat and Dr Chua Soi Lek for the party’s presidency in 2009, has caused a split in Penang, leaving the party largely with old guards who are unable to reconnect with the discerning Chinese voters.

Sweeping reforms needed

To this, Loga Balan said both Chinese-dominated parties need to be realistic about their election chances and to take a gamble by making sweeping reforms to pave the way in for new blood.

“We cannot afford to be in a state of denial, neither should we be entrapped by our past. Politics is fluid. We must move in tandem with the expectations of the electorate,” Loga Balan pointed out.

He said Umno is confident of retaining the present 11 state seats it holds and there is an inclination that it can go on to win four more seats, as the party’s constituencies are largely in areas where there
are huge compositions of Malays and Indians.

“The question is whether Gerakan and MCA can muster up at least 15 seats and if MIC wins one out of the two it has, there is a chance for BN to regain Penang.”

Or at the very least, deny Pakatan a two-thirds majority in the state legislative assembly, thus enabling BN to play a convincing role as a constructive opposition, he stressed.

Loga Balan also appealed to the voters to allow the Penang mentality to prevail where they usually do not blindly support one side.

DAP stepping on many toes

Pre-2008, voters here usually gave parliamentary seats to the opposition, thus the durability of DAP stalwarts Karpal Singh and Lim Kit Siang in Penang while the state seats were given to BN.

“Allow BN to act as a credible watchdog against Pakatan who are overzealous at times when they govern Penang,”said Loga Balan.

DAP in their haste to consolidate their hold in Penang, are stepping on the toes of everybody with political interests here including their own partners- PKR and PAS, he claimed.

In the last election, Umno was accorded 15 seats to contest, Gerakan (14), MCA (9) and MIC (2).

There are 40 state seats up for grabs in Penang. In the present status, 29 of the 40 are held by the Pakatan Rakyat comprising DAP which has 19, nine by PKR and one by PAS.

Umno is the sole opposition party here, having 11 seats and they have appointed a retired teacher Azhar Ibrahim as the Opposition Leader.

Penang is also the home state of former premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

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