Over four years after MCA suffered its worst electoral debacle since the formation of BN, the party at its annual general assembly meeting today appeared to have confidently settled on its agenda ahead of the national polls that must be called by early next year.
Following the charged anti-Pakatan and particularly anti-DAP rhetoric of its Youth and Women wings’ AGMs yesterday, the main AGM today was carefully crafted from beginning to end as a rallying cry before a general election described as the party’s “life and death” battle.
From breaking its decade-long tradition of white uniforms in favour of BN’s blue tees, to political banners decorating the MCA headquarters, the message in the words of MCA president Chua Soi Lek was simple: “We are ready for war.”
Chua during his closing remarks said, “In the over 20 years of AGMs that I have attended, this is the first time I have seen so many people remaining in this hall.”
The lucky draw and souvenirs for those who stayed back and the pouring rain outside may have helped to retain over 1,000 delegates of the 1,689 who attended today, but it was still a commendable achievement for any political party’s AGM and reflects the careful planning behind the gathering.
DAP bashing and hudud law took centre stage, as it did at MCA’s AGM last year after the party came out of its post-political tsunami wilderness, and today it was rammed home with greater ferocity than before.
Thus MCA’s soul-searching days appear to be over; it now has a firm, if familiar, game plan.
'New politics' forgotten
Prior to last year, MCA chiefs Chua and his predecessor Ong Tee Keat had contemplated going beyond the parochial concerns of advocating for Chinese temples and schools, or hammering at its Chinese-majority arch rival DAP and the perceived Islamic threat from PAS.
They had called it the “new politics”.
However, unwittingly or otherwise, the party in its haste to pull its act together has returned to the same platform it used when it entered the 2008 general election that saw the party’s parliamentary seat halved from 31 to 15.
Chua, however, defended this at the AGM.
“We feel that this is not the time to talk about policy because the GE can just be about two to three months away; your guess is as good as mine.
“So the important thing is we should talk about unity, about winning the GE,” he said.
Delegates in high spirits at the AGM today also believed despite the same old formula, this time would be different, as Kelana Jaya division youth chief Lee You Hin (right) pointed out.
“I think hudud is affecting the Chinese’s future. We need to talk about this. If the Chinese understand the entire (issue), they will support us,” he said.
Speaking to Malaysiakini on the sidelines, Indera Mahkota division Wanita chief Kwong Swee Yuen (below) echoed Lee’s sentiments and denied the party had gone in a circle.
“I don’t think this is recycling old things. We want to remind Chinese voters that a theocratic state is bad and a threat to us,” she said.
The party could however be treading dangerous ground with their newfound determination to hammer home the anti-hudud agenda.
For while MCA may be seeking different results with the same strategy, the dynamics have indeed changed: a majority of the party’s parliamentary seats or nine of 15, are Malay-majority constituencies.
In contrast, of the 16 parliamentary seats it lost in the last general election, almost two-thirds or 10 were Chinese-majority constituencies.
Will fear factor backfire?
Predictably, MCA’s aggressive drive against hudud law has angered some in the Malay-Muslim community, including Malay-rights group Perkasa, which responded by calling it “haram” to vote for the Chinese party.
MCA’s former Seri Kembangan state assemblyperson Liew Yuen Keong (left) concedes that it may hurt the party’s Malay support, but says the party has its eyes on Chinese-majority seats.
“Especially in places like Malay-majority Bangi (under the Serdang parliamentary seat), our anti-hudud stance may bring some negative impact.
“But as a whole, Malays make up 39 percent in Serdang,” he said.
Going into the next general election, MCA’s do-or-die strategy appears to hinge on regaining Chinese support from an old game plan pumped up on viagra.
It will be interesting to not just see whether MCA can pull it off, but how it will walk the tightrope with the Malay-Muslim voters who have kept MCA’s head above water in the last polls, and who may find their present strategy offensive.