KUALA LUMPUR: DAP was bold enough to field its state chief Liew Chin Tong in Ayer Hitam because the Chinese community in the constituency wanted a battle between two Chinese giants in the upcoming general election, Ilham Centre executive director Hisommudin Bakar revealed today.
According to a research conducted in the constituency, Hisommudin told Berita Daily that the Chinese were eager to see the battle between MCA and DAP although the opposition party will face a tough time convincing Malay voters to cast their ballots for the party.
“In Ayer Hitam there are two state seats – Semarang and Yong Peng. In Yong Peng, the Chinese voted for DAP but on a national scale, the Chinese voted for BN in Ayer Hitam.
“According to our research, the Chinese wanted DAP to challenge MCA and DAP is taking up the challenge to woo the Chinese since the majority received by incumbent MP Wee Ka Siong has decreased,” he said.
Hisommudin added that DAP only needed 15% more Chinese votes to win in Ayer Hitam since they have garnered over 65% of the Chinese votes in Yong Peng.
“DAP have to increase their votes only by 15% in Ayer Hitam since they have the votes in Yong Peng.
“If they can get it, it will be hard for MCA to retain the seat,” he added.
However, Hisommudin highlighted that DAP will have a tough task convincing the Malays in Semarang to vote for the opposition.
“The Malays in Semarang are still traditional Malays. Wee won the seat because the Malays voted for Barisan Nasional.
“I am skeptical with the Malay votes. DAP need 8% to 10 % of the Malay votes to win but the Malays are traditional voters,” he explained.
“DAP is bold in fielding Liew because the sentiment of the Chinese who wanted Giant vs Giant but its the Malay votes that will count,” he added.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng yesterday announced Liew’s candidacy for Ayer Hitam. He is the present Kluang MP. He will face MCA deputy president Wee who is a three-term MP in Ayer Hitam.
Liew, who is also the DAP political education director, said the party’s decision to field him in Ayer Hitam, which Wee has held since 2004, was prompted by signs that the MCA deputy president was “vulnerable”.
Wee’s “visibly” weakened position, said Liew, was a surprise as the minister had defeated PAS candidate Hu Pang Chow in 2013 by a comfortable 7,310-majority vote. The Ayer Hitam constituency is made up of 56% Malays, 38% Chinese and 4% Indians.
Test for Malay voters
Meanwhile, Universiti Malaya academic Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said that Ayer Hitam seat will become a test for the Malays.
“Will they vote for DAP or stick with BN? That will be a test for the Malays in Ayer Hitam.
“I think it is an open battle. 50/50 chances for both in Ayer Hitam but it is a battle royale for the two,” he said.
Awang Pawi also echoed Hisommudin sentiment saying the Malay votes were crucial and questioned DAP’s strategy to win the Malays.
“The voters are still having Umno sentiments. How will DAP handle issues such as the Malay rights and other issues? They need to convince them,” he said.
He added that DAP realised the need to maximise its victory in Semenanjung Malaysia as the party was aware of its slim chances of winning big in Sabah and Sarawak.
“MCA must be more pragmatic and must not rely on conventional ways anymore. This is an important battle for the two parties,” he opined.
Liew admits it will be tough
Following the announcement of his candidacy yesterday, Liew acknowledged that it would be a tough fight against Wee, but he said the party would not have fielded him if it was impossible to win.
He added that there were 10 BN seats in Johor that Pakatan Harapan was eyeing to win to increase their chances of forming a federal government.
“For the party to contest in Ayer Hitam, it means we think there is a fighting chance to win,” said Liew.
“And the message we want to send from here in Ayer Hitam is that for change, we have to go all out to win all these 10 seats.”
He also said that he was taking a political risk of moving away from his “comfort zone” of Kluang because “we have the best fighting chance to change the government this time”.
Wee remains confident
Wee, who is also Minister in Prime Minister’s Department, meanwhile responded to Liew’s challenge by saying that he never took voters’ support for granted.
He described the ground sentiment as “very challenging” but said he knew the pulse of his Malay constituents, adding that they were with him.
Wee said Johoreans were practical and liked the presence of their elected representatives.
“Most DAP elected representatives hardly come back to serve their constituents after getting their support,” he said.
MCA president Liow Tiong Lai however downplayed Liew’s decision to contest the Ayer Hitam parliamentary seat.
“MCA has always put servicing the people first … what has Liew done for the people in Kluang and Johor?” he asked.
He also said that that he expected DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang to vacate his Gelang Patah seat and contest in another constituency.
The Ayer Hitam seat, which was traditionally been contested by PAS, was supposed to be contested by Parti Amanah Negara. However, a last-minute seat swap means DAP will now contest the seat.