As the election fever heats up, a lot of the focus of the media seems to be concentrated on both the parliamentary battle as well as battles for state governments currently held by the Barisan Nasional. It is easy to be caught up in that fever as Pakatan Harapan concentrates their firepower on capturing more state governments as well as federal power in the coming election.
However, let us not forget about Penang as well as Selangor where Pakatan Harapan is currently in power. Penang in particular, is a state where the recent redelineation exercise has hardly made any changes to the current electoral boundaries. This was a curious development as some Selangor constituencies were savagely mutilated beyond recognition to favour the BN.
First let us explore the possibilities shall we? Penang is one out of only two states in which UMNO had never provided the head of government or Chief Minister, the other being Sarawak. Of course, UMNO has been salivating at the thought of grabbing the CM’s position of these two states for decades but local political circumstance had not afforded UMNO that opportunity. UMNO had to instead rely on their component parties to rule those states on their behalf.
UMNO’s dominance in Penang BN though, is very clear in their contest of 15 state seats in the Penang State Assembly as opposed to Gerakan who only contests 13. Yes, the party that is chosen by UMNO to provide the Chief Minister of Penang in the event of a BN victory contests less seats than UMNO. And right now Gerakan, MCA and MIC are all under pressure from UMNO to provide the seats needed by BN to form the Penang State Government which is the minimum of 21 out of 40.
Gerakan especially, knows that MCA cannot wait to take back the CM’s position since first losing it to Gerakan in 1969. Their opportunity lies in Gerakan’s inability to win enough seats to please UMNO. Therefore Gerakan is under tremendous pressure to perform this coming elections. The Penang BN chief from Gerakan Teng Chang Yeow knows that he has failed UMNO once in 2013 and should he fail again, his political career is more or less over. Teng’s strategy now looks to be showing signs of desperation as he ponders upon which of PH’s seat is the most vulnerable for he himself to at least sneak his way into the state assembly.
Teng’s strategies in the 13th General Elections had shown that he is not one to take risks and face a challenge head on. In 2013, he was repeatedly challenged and even counter-challenged the Chief Minister to a one on one fight. The CM even offered to face Teng in his former state seat of Padang Kota only for him to make excuses and eventually back out far away to contest in the Bukit Tengah state seat in Seberang Perai which he eventually lost as well. This election, it seems his strategy has not really changed as he really does his best to avoid top DAP leaders and look for potential easy state seats.
MCA on the other hand, is also trying to look their best to their UMNO bosses to prove that they can still deliver votes. They know that UMNO is on the brink of giving up on them totally and will replace them for another party in the blink of an eye if they fail to deliver their seats. The thought of losing their positions in government is one that is constantly haunting the nightmares of MCA leadership.
Anyway, what I am getting at here, is that both Gerakan and MCA have one thing in common which is their fear of and dependency on UMNO. It was under Gerakan’s rule that UMNO slowly sneaked in to be the party in the BN with the most seats to contest in Penang. Shows enough that no matter how much Gerakan and MCA tries to distance themselves from Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, reality is that he is still the boss over the Penang BN and will be calling the shots even if the CM is from Gerakan. A clear example is the time Gerakan members chose former Penang State Exco member Dr. Teng Hock Nan to continue leading the party in Penang. The Penang Gerakan chief should then also be the de facto Penang BN chief right?
Wrong! the PM decided to undercut Gerakan’s decision by appointing his rival Teng Chang Yeow as the Penang BN chief instead. This was a clear enough indication to show that the PM and not Gerakan leadership is the real power in the Penang BN. And as of today, nothing has changed, Teng Chang Yeow is still the Penang BN chief and CM-designate appointed by UMNO leadership and UMNO will still be contesting 15 seats to Gerakan’s 13.
BN is not a coalition, it is a one party dominated kleptocracy masquerading as one. Delivering any seats to BN will just make UMNO stronger and believe me, they are just getting started with their new laws like the anti-fake news law. A police state might be in our future soon if BN is ever empowered even more, because when it comes to their grip on power, they will grip it tight like it is their birthright.
Chris Lee Chun Kit is a City Councillor with the City Council of Penang Island (MBPP) representing the DAP