GE13: Analysts: Three-cornered fights will hurt Penang BN further

Azril Anuuar,

Three-cornered fights that may take place in Penang come nomination day on Saturday will thwart BN’s chances of retaking the state from the Pakatan Rakyat, say analysts.

Unlike the scenario prior to the 2008 general election, where three-cornered fights have always been in BN’s favour, this time around such contests will dilute the votes for the coalition, rather than for its opponents.

However, that would depend on whether BN leaders who have not been named as candidates do contest as independents, said Professor James Chin, head of the School of Political Science at Monash University, Kuala Lumpur.

“We will not know for sure if they are going to contest until nomination day. All those who are unhappy (because they were not selected to contest) have been called up to speak to (BN chairman Datuk Seri) Najib Razak’s special officers for their ‘retirement package’.

“So it will also depend on how good the ‘retirement package’ is that is being offered to them. But in the event that they do contest, it will split the vote and this will make it bad for Umno (and BN as a whole). Umno and BN will suffer,” said Chin.

Penang BN revealed their candidate list on Tuesday and among those who were dropped was the popular former Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Seri Shariff Omar.

Following this Shariff, who was former Deputy Chief Minister in the previous government, announced that he would be standing as an independent. He made the announcement at a ceramah at his home attended by around 2,000 supporters who turned up to back his decision.

Former Bernama editor-in-chief Datuk Seri Azman Ujang believed that BN took “unnecessary risks” by not fielding the multi-lingual Shariff, especially in light of the sacrifice he made in 2008 when his seat was given to then Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop.

“Five years ago Shariff Omar was already an angry person because then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi fielded Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop who was a senator in Shariff’s traditional seat in Tasek Gelugor.

“Three months ago Shariff said he wanted his seat back because he is the division chief there. His decision is not surprising and according to him he will be an independent and a PR friendly candidate,” said Azman.

To make matters worse, Shariff is also fielding two of his lieutenants, namely, Umno division committee member Mustaffa Idrus to contest in the Teluk Ayer Tawar state seat and state Perkasa vice president Azmi Alang to contest in the Sungai Dua state seat.

“Prior to 2008, three-cornered fights have always been in BN’s favour because the Opposition were not working hand in hand and they neutralised one another. Now it will depend on the seat,” said Azman.

On three-cornered fights, DAP election strategist and former academic Dr Ong Kian Ming said: “In a seat like Tasek Gelugor where the margin is not as strong (in favour of BN) as in Kepala Batas it will be the determining factor whether or not PR or BN will win the seat.”