DEPUTY Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has insisted that all is well between Umno and MCA.
With the general election around the corner, possibly in the first week of May, the two leading parties in BN know they cannot afford to openly bicker.
What started as an open “teguran” by Zahid about the absence of MCA leaders at a grassroots event in Rembau, Negri Sembilan, escalated into an uproar when top MCA leaders reacted angrily to the comments.
Zahid said the issue was now closed after he met with MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong after a cabinet meeting.
“I am satisfied with the actions taken by both leaders, as evidenced today. Many MCA leaders and members are here (in Kepala Batas for the gathering with the people).
“This is a positive improvement. It shows they accept what was said,” he told a press conference.
Zahid said there was no longer an issue in Umno and MCA’s relationship. “All is good. The only one splitting us is the media,” he added.
With BN’s future at stake, component parties must now show some discipline, unity and harmony.
Allocation of seats and choice of candidates must also be based on the winning formula, and not on the decades-old policy of the “birthright” of component parties.
A parliamentary seat must go to the best candidate from any BN party that can deliver the seat, not by the old ways of sticking to quotas.
What’s certain is that every seat counts.
This leads to the question of how MCA and BN parties will reach out to Chinese voters.
How the Chinese voted in the last two general elections is well documented.
MCA, which has traditionally represented the interest of the Malaysian Chinese community, did very badly in GE13, winning just seven parliamentary seats.
Other Chinese-based BN component parties also did not fare well. Gerakan was left with a single seat from the two it garnered in 2008.
In GE12, MCA won 32 seats, thus experiencing a downward spiral in the number of parliamentary seats in the last two general elections.
The Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) also saw its overall tally reduced markedly, from six seats to a mere one in the 2013 election.
In Sabah, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) saw its president defeated, leaving the BN component party without any parliamentary representation.
In some constituencies, it was estimated that close to 90 per cent of Chinese voters cast their ballots for the opposition.
What is the mood and attitude of Chinese voters this time around?
Political analysts and Chinese newspaper editors think that there could be a slight shift back to BN.
There might be an increase in BN’s popular vote, but the numbers might not be enough to regain some seats that MCA and Gerakan lost in GE13.
MCA is expected to deliver at most seven parliamentary seats, the same as in 2013, party insiders said.
“A certain percentage will be back to support MCA and Gerakan but when the election is approaching, there shouldn’t be any remarks by Umno leaders who are seen to be extreme like those from (Tourism and Culture Minister) (Datuk Seri Mohamed) Nazri (Abdul Aziz),” said one Chinese newspaper editor.
KRA group director of strategy Amir Fareed Rahim said the Chinese ground looks calmer this time around.
“I feel that it is much calmer than it was in 2013. The last round, the sheer anger, determination and resoluteness in voting against the ruling coalition was clear.
“This time around, it is much calmer and the Chinese ground will evaluate carefully. I don’t think they will come back in droves to BN.
“There will likely be a small swing of Chinese support to BN of around five per cent — but there is also a high likelihood of a low turnout, possibly in the low 70s.
“Therefore, a combination of both — slight swing back and low turnout rate in general, will give BN a slight bump in the Chinese votes,” he said.
Rita Sim, chief executive officer and director of CENSE Media, also expects MCA and BN to win back some Chinese voters.
“But it varies from state to state,” she said.
Having said that, Chinese voters should realise that they need a strong Umno-led government to deliver stability and continuity given its proven track record since Merdeka.
The fact that DAP is sleeping with its former enemy Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad may put off some Chinese voters.
The reality is that the Chinese could probably have made up their mind long ago.
The Chinese are just like the Malays. The farther they are from the centre, the better for BN. Those in the outskirts are more insulated from the cost of living issue.
But, seasoned campaigners say, it is harder to woo the Chinese than the Malays.
The writer feels in a digital world, the winner does not always take all