By Aathi Shankar
BarisanÂ Nasional (BN) should field an MCA candidate in the forthcoming Tanjung Piai by-election in Johor.
This is not just because MCA has traditionally contested the parliamentary constituency, which was first formed in 2004.
Itâs important to portray BN as still the coalition for all Malaysians despite Umnoâs strong political ties with Islamist party, PAS.
Fielding an MCA candidate will demonstrate to all Malaysians that the 3-party BN still works on consensus and consultative politics.
The by-election will be an ideal window display to showcase on how much the grand old political coalition has recovered from its embarrassing defeat in the last general election, GE14, held on May 9, 2018.
A major reason for the GE14 defeat was the widespread public perception that BN was merely a subsidiary of Umno.
Itâs vital to wipe out such negative public perception, especially among non-Malay/Muslims.
Fielding an MCA candidate could do the trick.
It will also present a great opportunity for Umno to demonstrate that the partyâs recently established alliance with PAS is the future new political landscape for all Malaysians, not just Malay-Muslims.
By fielding an MCA candidate for the by-election, BN can also gauge its political strength in a mixed constituency, where the voting power of both Malay-Muslims (57%) and others (43%) are almost equal.
Chinese make up 42% and Indians are at just 1% in Tanjung Piai, which had 44,948 registered voters in GE14.
Tanjung Piai by-election will the 9th to be held in the country since GE14.
Earlier by-elections were for state seats of Seri Setia, Sg Kandis, Balakong and Semenyih, all in Selangor, and Rantau in Negeri Sembilan; and for parliamentary seats of Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan, Cameron Highlands in Pahang and Sandakan in Sabah.
Ruling party Pakatan Harapan (PH) has so far won 5 by-elections against BNâs 3.
Tanjung Piai by-election was caused by the death of incumbent MP, Md Farid Md Rafik, last Saturday September 22, 2019.
The 42-year-old died of a heart attack at 6am in the Pontian Hospital, Johor.
Farid from PPBM was a deputy minister in the Prime Ministerâs Department in charge of Unity and Social Harmony.
The Election Commission (EC) will announce the dates for the nomination, early voting and the main balloting day for the poll after holding a special meeting chaired by EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun on Oct 1.
Under the countryâs election laws, the EC will have to hold the by-election within 60 days of the seat having fallen vacant.
Farid won Tanjung Piai seat in GE14 with a narrow majority of 524 votes over the nearest opponent, BN incumbent Wee Jeck Seng of MCA.
Farid polled 21,255 against Jeck Sengâs 20,731.
The third candidate Nordin Othman from PAS got 2,962.
For the record, MCA had won the seat for past three general elections, including twice by Jeck Seng, before GE14.
Based on these records alone, MCA should be given the seat.
But certain Umno stalwarts are learnt to plot to hijack the seat for their party, and perhaps to serve their own selfish interests.
BN leadership should deploy wisdom here.
Umno cannot go on using the growing support amongst Malay-Muslims as the yardstick to gauge the winnable party or candidate.
This by-election gives rise an opportunity for BN to test its political strength among non-Malay/Muslims, who had rejected the coalition outright in GE14.
MCA can test its political influence among the very community it claims to represent.
An MCA candidate will also show that BN and PAS can work together for mutual political and public interests regardless of race and religion.
Even if the MCA candidate was defeated in the by-election, it will not be the end of the world for BN.
In fact, it will be a good measurement to overcome weaknesses and beef up the strengths for future success.
This by-election will be the first and important test for the recently formalised Umno-PAS political cooperation.
A defeat for an Umno candidate, for instance, will show that the Umno-PAS combination could not weave its magic in mixed constituencies.
Such defeat will be dealt a major blow to the Malay-Muslim unity theme espoused so strongly by the Umno-PAS pact.
It will belittle and ridicule the âPenyatuan Ummahâ battle cry.
By definition, it will be demoralising not just to BN and PAS but millions of Malaysians, who want an end to PH rule.
Fielding an Umno candidate will not guarantee victory anyway as Tanjung Piai has no one-race kingmaker.
PH can win the seat by splitting the Malay-Muslim votes and securing at least 90% of Chinese voters.
But a winnable MCA candidate could garner a big chunk of Chinese votes and secure sizable Malay-Muslim support via Umno-PAS political combo.
Hence, the MCA candidate for BN is ideal.