Ghani’s Gelang Patah move changes everything in Johor?

Gelang Patah will be hotly contested seat as it could be fight between Lim Kit Siang and MB Abdul Ghani Othman and what would it mean for MCA?

Chua Sue-Ann,

PAKATAN RAKYAT’s rapid momentum in Johor appears to have hit its first stumble now that Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman has offered to battle DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang in Gelang Patah.
For starters, the two Johor-born politicians loom large in the political sphere and are well-known names in their own right.
Lim is a household brand who embodies DAP’s classic “street fighter” style of opposition politics on a national level.
The mild-mannered Ghani, in contrast, is a familiar face in the state, having been menteri besar since 1995.
Personalities aside, Gelang Patah is tipped to be the hottest seat to watch at the 13th general election due to the new dynamics that this epic battle brings.
It significantly changes the early game for both sides of the political divide not just for Gelang Patah but the larger Johor landscape.
What does this mean for MCA?
Ghani, if he is fielded as BN’s candidate for Gelang Patah, will raise many uncomfortable issues for MCA, who is already seen to be on a weaker footing going into the impending general election.
Already, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has disappointed those who were keen to see him take on Lim in a “clash of titans”.
Earlier last week, Chua declined to stand in Gelang Patah ostensibly because he had to “respect” the will of the grassroots. 
Soi Lek had argued that he couldn’t usurp the position from local MCA grassroots leader Jason Teoh who has been working the ground in the constituency.
By with the rapidly changing developments, Chua’s argument appears to hold little water.
“Soi Lek and MCA claim to be leaders of the Chinese community. This is all the more reason why Soi Lek should stand in Gelang Patah to take on Kit Siang,” said a political observer, noting that Gelang Patah is after all a Chinese-majority urban seat.
He added that Chua should emulate Tan Sri Lee San Choon who took up the challenge of standing against DAP’s Dr Chen Man Hin in Seremban, a Chinese-majority DAP stronghold, in the 1982 general elections.
Not only did Lee go on to beat Chen by a mere 845 votes, he led MCA to a huge victory – winning 24 out of 28 parliamentary seats and 55 out of 62 state seats contested. “That cemented MCA’s position as the leader of the Chinese community,” he said.
Also, questions already abound as to why MCA would hand over its seat for Umno to defend. Does this confirm MCA’s lack of confidence in winning Chinese support, the very community that it claims to represent? 
Strategically though, MCA could use Gelang Patah as a bargaining chip for a safer Johor seat, one that the Chinese-based party has a more realistic chance of winning.
But it remains to be seen how well grassroot supporters and local warlords will receive MCA’s plans to step aside for Umno in Gelang Patah.
Pakatan is also expected to take the opportunity to criticise MCA for giving in to Umno’s demands.
What does this mean for DAP?
Lim, going from his Ipoh Timur constituency to Gelang Patah, initially injected a much-needed boost for DAP and Pakatan Rakyat’s bid to rattle the MCA and Umno in their stronghold state. 
Since Gelang Patah is a Chinese-majority urban seat, it was earlier thought that Lim will have little difficulty beating beat his MCA contender, Teoh. This is because federal opposition was banking on a surge of support from Johor’s Chinese voters, and Barisan’s earlier choice of candidate, Teoh, is a relative lightweight in comparison.
But now, with Ghani in the fray, DAP will have to go back to the drawing board to alter its strategy somewhat.
For one, DAP will now have to focus on attacking Ghani’s credentials as menteri besar.
At its many ceramahs, DAP has been campaigning on broader national issues of good governance and corruption scandals. 
But at this stage, it is uncertain if national issues will hold sway with Johor voters who had stood behind BN in the 2008 general election even though urban voters elsewhere swung towards the opposition.
Although DAP is likely to still win high support levels from Chinese voters in Gelang Patah and Johor, Lim will need to shore up his appeal amongst Malay and Indian voters to ensure a win.
To that end, Lim has to rely on PAS and PKR. 
Lim has already released what he termed “DAP’s Gelang Patah Declaration”, a blueprint to help uplift the Indian community’s welfare if Pakatan triumphs.
What does this mean for Pakatan’s momentum?
Ghani’s entry into the right could be the uniting factor for Pakatan’s three coalition partners – DAP, PKR and PAS.
PAS and DAP have been working somewhat well together in the early stages of preparing groundwork and machinery for Johor. 
But DAP and PKR ties in Johor were strained after a much publicised spat between DAP Johor chairman Dr Boo Cheng Hau and Johor PKR chairman Datuk Chua Jui Meng. Even PKR party workers in Johor would not go as far as to say they were working well with DAP. 
But on Friday, Chua emerged from his self-imposed two-week break to address the press after his brief “leave of absence” drew concern of a fracture within Pakatan. All smiles, Chua appeared to offer an olive branch to DAP by wishing Boo well and maintaining that there was no hatchet to bury with his DAP counterpart.
Chua even pledged to help DAP, saying “We are brothers in politics. There is a Chinese saying that the spears must point outwards, not inwards at ourselves”.
What does this mean for Ghani and Umno?
In Johor, Umno has been reasonably comfortable that they still command a high level of support from Malay voters. Their only worry is with the Chinese and Indian voters because many Johor constituencies have a sizeable non-Malay electorate.
It is learnt that it was Ghani himself who offered to fight Kit Siang after the latter made known that he would be vying for the Gelang Patah constituency.
Umno sources say Ghani’s closest associates sought to dissuade him. But about a week ago, BN decided that Ghani should go up against Kit Siang to help offset potential loss of non-Malay support, they say.
“He himself was worried that they will lose the bastion during his time. Kit Siang’s entry increases opposition ratings so all the MCA and MIC seats became danger zones. He felt he has to do something about it,” said an Umno source.
It is an open secret that Ghani will no longer be the menteri besar candidate for BN in Johor after 18 years in office. This is apparently due to the Sultan of Johor’s preference to see a more dynamic menteri besar. But at the same time, Ghani is not keen to bow out of state politics and head back to a federal platform. 
Whatever happens in Gelang Patah and Johor, Ghani will still walk away a winner.
If he defeats Kit Siang, Ghani’s star will shine brighter within Umno and BN, thus putting him on a stronger political footing. And if he loses to Kit Siang, he can go out in a blaze of glory.