MCA Race Begins, Aspirants Begin Criss-crossing Country For Votes

By Alan Ting and S. Retna

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 31 (Bernama) -- MCA leaders look all set to make their respective bids for party national positions, kicking-off their campaign rounds and criss-crossing the nation to garner votes for the election slated for Oct 18.

And like the US presidential race, which had now reached a feverish pitch after both democrats and republicans picked their respective candidates, aspirants of the second largest Barisan Nasional component party are expected to follow a similar path, announcing the posts they would like to contest.

To date, only three candidates -- MCA vice-president and Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat, MCA Youth secretary-general Wee Ka Siong and Deputy Wanita chief Datuk Paduka Chew Mei Fun have announced their bid.

The others have decided to play the waiting game.

For the time being, Ong seems to be the lone candidate for the presidency of the party which consists of some one million members. Wee wants to be Youth chief and Chew intends to go for the Wanita head post.

The position of Youth chief fell vacant, following a decision by Datuk Liow Tiong Lai, who is also health minister, to go for the parent body position.

The Wanita chief post has also seen a vacancy with incumbent and Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen wanting to have a shot at one of MCA's top three posts.

However, this calm setting is about to change in days to come, as indications are that after testing the ground, other leaders are expected to announce their intention on the positions they would like to contests at the MCA polls.

Wanting maximum media coverage, leaders like Home Affairs Deputy Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung and Federal Territory MCA chief Datuk Tan Chai Ho are expected to announce their candidacy for the MCA vice presidency Monday, knowing very well that newspapers would be hunting for stories to fill their pages during the three-day Merdeka holidays.

"I would announce my decision on Monday (Sept 1) in Aloe Star after the state liaison committee meeting," Chor told Bernama when asked if he would go for the vice presidency.

Other MCA leaders like secretary-general Datuk Ong Ka Chuan and vice-president Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai, who are likely to square-off for the MCA deputy presidency are expected to follow suit in the "very near future."

Ong, the younger brother of outgoing president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, had indirectly hinted that he would go for the party's second post, after three MCA divisions in Perak announced that they supported him for the number two post, in his presence, two days ago.

While Lim is mum on the post to contest, ardent supporters of the former deputy tourism minister reveal that the "boss" would also go for the deputy presidency.

"I will announce my decision after the state MCA Youth and Wanita elections," he said. The state MCA Youth and Wanita polls will be held simultaneously nationwide on Sept 6.

Another heavyweight, Dr Ng, is also expected to announce her bid in the next few days, possibly Monday, and talk is that the Iron Lady of MCA would fight for one of the four vice-president posts in the MCA. Sources also reveal that the outspoken Wanita leader would join the crowded veep race.

Liow, who is not defending his MCA Youth chief post, on the other hand is expected to make his announcement on Wednesday. He is likely to be another vice-president candidate.

Other leaders likely to join in the fray are Higher Education Deputy Minister Dr Hou Kok Chung, former Penang exco Datuk Koay Kar Huah, former Perlis exco Loh Yoon Foo, former Negeri Sembilan exco Datuk Yeow Chai Tiam and former Sabah MCA chief Datuk Chau Tet Onn.

However, the bulk of party leaders are expected to fight for the 25 MCA Central Committee (CC) positions, which would be up for grabs.

Several Chinese-based newspapers have put the CC aspirant figures to as high as 126, with some divisions having up to three members wanting to go for the CC post.

"These people have expressed their intention, but this does not necessarily mean that they would file their nomination papers. As in the past, at least half would pull out," said a party insider.

This time around, the party polls would see several "big" names missing like Ong (Ka Ting), deputy president Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy, treasurer-general Tan Sri Lau Yin Pin and organising secretary and former deputy education minister Datuk Hon Choon Kim.

Others unlikely to join in the fray are MCA publicity chief Datuk Fu Ah Kiow and former culture, arts and heritage deputy minister Datuk Wong Kam Hoong. These leaders have either decided not to seek re-election or retire from active politics.

However, the question frequently asked in this MCA polls remains unanswered. Who will take on Ong (Tee Keat) for the party's number one post?

Party insiders reveal that the contender could be either MCA vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn or former MCA vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek. But these two leaders could form a pact and trash-out on who should fight the top post.

"However, until now, there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. Dr Chua wants the top post," a party insider close to the two leaders told Bernama.

Dr Chua seems to be a clear candidate trading barbs with Ong (Tee Keat) in cyberspace via blogs and this is viewed by many educated MCA delegates as a good avenue to get to know the two leaders.

"It is as good as their manifesto. For Dr Chua, it shows that he is preparing to contest," an aide to a MCA minister said.

In his blog, Dr Chua projects himself as choice to revive the MCA which received a massive blow at the March 8 general election, while Ong portrays himself as a consistent leader "without any moral issue."

However, should Dr Chua, the former health minister, opt to go for the party's top post, the issue of morality due to his previous sex scandal will definitely haunt him during the campaign.

While these two leaders seem to be locked in battle, former health minister and veteran MCA leader Datuk Chua Jui Meng is the dark horse as he too, is said to be "eyeing" the MCA top post.

The path is clear for Chua after he retained the Bakri (Johor) MCA division head post and "he is likely to announce his decision next week," an aide to Chua told Bernama when asked to comment.

The next few weeks seem to be exciting times for the MCA.

If the leaders think that winning positions is difficult, then they are definitely wrong as another bigger battle awaits them.

That battle is, winning the hearts and minds of the Malaysian Chinese who had deserted the party at the recent general election.


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