Keen contests boost hopes for Gerakan

By : Eileen Ng

FOR a party now considered irrelevant by many, the large number of candidates contending Gerakan's vice-presidency and a seat on the central committee has caught party leaders and the grassroots by surprise.

When nominations for the party's national elections closed last Saturday, there were a record 10 candidates vying for the three vice-president's posts with 40 others taking a stab at the 18 seats on the central committee.

Nine candidates remain for the vice-presidency following the withdrawal of Penang chief Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan.

More interesting is a surge of non-Chinese candidates: three Indians and one Malay for vice-president, seven more Indians for the CC posts.

Previous Gerakan elections saw barely any contest, with only four or five candidates at most for the vice-presidency and between 20 and 25 candidates for the CC.
Although surprised by the newfound interest after many had written off Gerakan -- it was humiliated in the general election, losing power in Penang -- party members take it as a positive sign.

Newly-elected president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon gave his stamp of approval when he said the large number of candidates showed the members' commitment and willingness to serve the party.

He said: "It indicates that members still have faith in the party."

Central committee member Lau Yeng Peng also attributed the interest to a level playing field.

"Last time, it was perceived that those holding government posts have an edge.

"Now with so many of us without any post, the perception is that everyone has an equal chance."

Wanita chief Datuk Tan Lian Hoe said members should vote for leaders who are committed to the party's "Satu Hati" spirit.

"We want visionary leaders who can reform both the party and country. They must have good political ethics and have the people's interests in their hearts."

With so many people contesting, who is likely to win?

Perak chief Datuk Chang Ko Youn, who is in a straight fight against former Federal Territory Youth chief Ma Woei Chyi, is expected to easily clinch the deputy presidency.

For the vice-presidency, indications on the ground suggest that delegates are looking at the muhibah factor.

As a result, the only Malay candidate, Dr Asharuddin Ahmad, stands a good chance, while outgoing youth chief Datuk Mah Siew Keong is a shoe-in due to his popularity with delegates.

Of the three Indian candidates, incumbent Datuk S. Vijayaratnam stands a better chance as the other two are not well known.

Kota Kinabalu division chief Datuk Robin Loh is a dark horse though he is well known among delegates for his experience and track record.

In the CC contest, the preference seems to be for younger and energetic leaders. "Expect lots of new faces this time," declared Selangor central committee member Lee Hui Seng.

While former Puchong member of parliament, Lau Yeng Peng, Selangor chief A. Kohillan Pillay and Teng Chang Yeow are expected to be voted in, other newcomers who might make their debut are Simpang Renggam member of parliament, Liang Teck Meng, FT Wanita chief Jayanthi Devi Balaguru and Johor chief Teo Kok Chee.

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