Discord within the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) deepened at a special meeting Saturday that saw a no-confidence vote against its president and a show of support for his rival, who was suspended over a sex tape scandal.
Prime Minister Najib Razak needs to woo ethnic Chinese and Indian voters who swung to the opposition in disastrous elections last year, amid increasing criticism of Najib’s party, which represents majority Muslim Malays.
But disarray in the MCA, as well as within the leading Indian party in the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), is making his task even more difficult.
“The BN wants the leadership situation within MCA to be resolved quickly,” Najib said Sunday, urging members to address the vacuum created by the vote against party president Ong Tee Keat, who has not said if he will resign.
“If we take a course of action that is based on our wisdom and we put the needs of BN and MCA above everything else, I believe MCA can be restored and return as a stable and strong partner within BN.”
At Saturday’s meeting, MCA members passed a no-confidence vote against Ong by a slim margin and overturned an earlier decision to suspend his rival Chua Soi Lek.
However, members knocked back a motion to reinstate Chua as deputy president. The 62-year-old was forced to quit as health minister last year after being recorded having sex with an unidentified woman in a hotel room.
“What Najib wants is a strong MCA leader after the special meeting but he did not get his wish,” said James Chin, political analyst at the Monash University campus in Kuala Lumpur.
“This crisis is going to be prolonged. MCA will still be a broken party and there is no way it can recover in time before the next general elections (due by 2013),” he told AFP.
Meanwhile, ethnic Indian politics appeared headed for a shake-up after Najib presided over the weekend launch of a new party representing the community, in a serious challenge to the MIC, which has its own leadership woes.
Najib graced the launch event of the Malaysian Makkal Sakti (MSP) party, which sprang from the banned rights group Hindraf, whose leaders were jailed for mounting anti-discrimination protests in 2007.
Analysts said the move showed that Najib feels he cannot rely on the MIC, which is widely seen as out of touch and beset by cronyism, and has resisted calls for a leadership change.
“That the PM himself is backing a small, insignificant Indian party shows he has lost faith in the MIC, and the MSP is now a threat to the MIC, which will definitely try to block it from joining the ruling coalition,” said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.
Both the MCA and the MIC were decimated in 2008 general elections, part of a swing against the coalition that saw the worst results of its half-century rule over Malaysia.
Since then, the coalition has lost seven out of eight by-elections.
Another special vote on Sunday in central Negeri Sembilan state, which the coalition is tipped to win, is providing a much-needed chance to end the opposition’s winning streak. – AFP