GE13: Big battle for the silver state

Barisan Nasional is going all out to retain Perak after ousting the Opposition from a short-lived victory.

The Star

PERAK remains a hot state in this general election and all eyes are on whether Barisan Nasional can continue its grip on the state.

The Opposition wrested the state in the 2008 polls with a combined number of 31 seats won by the DAP, PKR and PAS as against Barisan’s 28 seats.

But their victory was shortlived after three assemblymen – Datuk Hee Yit Foong (DAP-Jelapang), Osman Mohd Jailu (PKR-Changkat Jering) and Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (PKR-Behrang) – quit their respective parties and Barisan regained control of Perak in less than a year after a court battle.

While some political observers believe the anger over the power change has since subsided, the resentment towards the trio continues.

Jelapang is likely to go back to DAP and Hee’s political shelf-life is essentially over.

But the scenario may be different in Behrang and Changkat Jering. With a weak PKR and the Malay rural vote returning to Barisan, the ruling party is set to take back the two seats.

The Opposition bench was further reduced to 27 seats in June 2010 when Malim Nawar assemblyman Keshvinder Singh, who won on a DAP ticket, quit the party to become another Barisan-friendly independent assemblyman.

Come nomination day, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Husni Hanadzlah, who is Tambun MP, will be among the most-watched candidates.

There has been speculation that Dr Zambry will vacate his Pangkor state seat and move to the Federal level, while Husni will contest a state seat and take over as mentri besar.

Two parliamentary seats that will be watched are Ipoh Timur, where Lim Kit Siang is the incumbent, and Batu Gajah, now held by cili padi Fong Po Kuan.

Lim has moved to Johor and will contest the Gelang Patah parliamentary seat, and he is likely to take Fong with him.

Lim’s transfer is taking away his party’s focus in Perak but it will still be tough for Barisan to take back the two seats from DAP.

There are 59 state seats in Perak, and Umno is confident of winning up to 32 seats – impro­ving its tally by five from the previous polls.

The MCA, which fielded candidates in 16 seats in 2008, won only Chenderiang through Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon.

It hopes to retain this seat and regain four more – including Teja and Keshvinder’s Malim Nawar, besides Kepayang.

Pokok Assam, which the DAP won, is said to be another seat where the MCA has a “fighting chance”.

MCA president and state MCA chairman Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, with Dr Zambry’s help, has resolved long-standing land issues that had plagued some 1,500 farmers, including ornamental fish breeders in the state. Many of them are in Teja and Malim Nawar.

The state government has also given 1,011ha of land to nine Chinese independent schools while Dr Mah is said to be instrumental in getting representatives from the school boards and the private sector to set up a joint venture in oil palm plantation.

The venture, the first of its kind in Malaysia, saw the schools jointly getting RM3mil a year for 30 years, beginning last year.

Meanwhile, the MCA has also set up a team to take care of the electorate in Malim Nawar. It is headed by Kampar MP Datuk Lee Chee Leong as the state seat comes under his parliamenatry constituency.

In Kepayang, Perak MCA secretary Datuk Tan Chin Meng continues to serve the people despite losing to little-known Loke Chee Yan of the DAP.

There is talk that Perak DAP secretary Nga Kor Ming has offered to stand in Kepayang but his bid has reportedly irked party colleague and Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran.

The state seat is within his parliamentary area and Kulasegaran is said to be eyeing it for his assistant,

Nga and Kulasegaran have not been on good terms with both men often seen attacking each other. In a way, they have paved the way for the MCA to increase its chances of winning Kepayang.

The MIC does not have any state seat in Perak but the MCA, in the Barisan spirit of cooperation, is said to be also willing to give it the Buntong seat if its ally has a winnable candidate.

Meanwhile, at parliamentary level, the MCA is confident of retaining Tanjung Malim, Kampar and Lumut while it also sees Gopeng, which it lost to the PKR’s Dr Lee Boon Chye, as a winnable seat this time around.

In Gerik, incumbent MP Datuk Tan Lian Hoe from Gerakan is not certain if she will be fielded again there as there is talk that Umno also wants the seat.

In Beruas, where Perak DAP chairman Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham is the incumbent, could also prove to be tough for Perak Gerakan chief Datuk Chang Ko Youn to oust him.

Political observers say the chances of the Gerakan winning any seat in this election is anything from slim to nil.

There are 24 parliamentary seats in Perak; with the Barisan holding 13 via Umno (eight), the MCA (three), Gerakan and MIC (one each). The other seats are held by the DAP (six), PKR (three) and PAS (two).