Thursday, November 17, 2011

Koh's decision puts other BN leaders in a spot

The decision not to be a candidate in the next general election by Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon may have, no doubt, placed some other Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders in a difficult position.

It is difficult in the sense that Dr Koh has now set a precedent in which party leaders, particularly those who lost in the last general election and, despite holding the top party position, should not again nominate themselves as a candidate.

There are a few BN top leaders who were defeated in the last general election in 2008, including MIC president Datuk G. Palanivel and People's Progressive Party (PPP) President Datuk M. Kayveas, while Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam was trounced in the
Sarawak state election on April 16.

While Chan announced he would step down during SUPP's Triennial Delegates Conference(TDC) next month, both Palanivel and Kayveas have remained coy about their remaining as candidates in the next general election.

However, political analysts are divided on this, with some saying that other BN leaders who lost in the last general election, and are not "winnable candidates", should also step down for the sake of their parties' interests, rather than only being concerned with themselves.

However, other analysts are cautious about BN leaders adopting a similar stand as Dr Koh, as they pointed out that each party had its own unique set of problems that must be dealt with carefully.

"Let's take Dr Koh as an example, who has been an icon for the party. Now, with limited time before the general election, can those replacing him pull the party together? By not having Dr Koh on the ballot, will Gerakan supporters be willing to get back together?" asked political analyst at Universiti Sains
Malaysia (USM), Dr Sivamurugan Pandian.

However, he still believed that it was a wise decision for Dr Koh not to be a candidate, as the Gerakan president was facing a "big problem" in finding the right seat to contest due to the limited choice of available seats.

"It would be unwise of him to take a safe seat, such as Simpang Renggam, and ask the incumbent to give way. No doubt, as party president you can pick which seat you want to contest but, morally, it would not be a good thing to do," he said.

A political analyst at UCSI University, Ong Kian Ming, said each BN component party had its own set of problems and cannot be categorised as facing the same issues that Dr Koh must contend with.

"Dr Koh has talked about making sacrifices. Palanivel, Kayveas and Dr Chua (Soi Lek) did not say that. Therefore, you can't hold them to that," he said, adding that under the transformation plan, Dr Koh is still holding the Gerakan presidency as well as his government position," he said.

Ong said Dr Chua stepped down as MCA vice-president and minister of health in late 2007 due to an exposed sexual escapade, and chose not to be nominated as a candidate in the 2008 general election.

He said Palanivel seemed to be facing similar challenges, like finding the right seat, though the magnitude of the issues were far less than those confronting Dr Koh, as the latter also holds the position of Penang BN state chairman, as well as the fact that Gerakan's powerbase is located in the state.

"The other BN leaders are not being pressured as much as Dr Koh, as Dr Koh, himself, is an issue and, therefore, he has to make such decisions as to help the party. Moreover, it would be very bad for Gerakan if Dr Koh were to lose again," he said.

Such a decision may have implications for other leaders in Gerakan itself, as some political observers pointed out that party leaders, including deputy president Datuk Chang Ko Youn, secretary-general Teng Chang Yeow, and all three vice-presidents, Datuk Mah Siew Keong, Datuk Teng Hock Nam, and Datuk Seri Chia Kwang Chye, had also lost in the last general election.

Only Wanita Chief Datuk Tan Lian Hoe and Central Committee member Liang Teck Ming managed to retain their parliamentary seats.

This has prompted political observers to wonder if the decision not to contest also applied to those who lost in the last polls.

However, Chang explained that this was not an issue for them, but largely about whether Gerakan had already identified candidates who could win and were willing to put in effort to wrest back seats lost previously.

"If you continue serving the constituency despite being voted out in the last election, it would not become an issue. The other issue is age. If you are too old, then the question will arise whether you can be considered a winnable candidate especially if, in the past few years, you didn't put in any effort,"
Chang said when contacted.

However, whether there will be pressure on other BN leaders or, rather, as pointed out by LDP president Datuk V.K Liew, it becomes a personal decision whether "the party leader should take stock of the situation, be responsive to voices on the ground and be decisive in their course of action".

"I cannot speak for them. They have to assess the situation themselves. There is no point being popular in your own party, but not with the people," he noted.-

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