Narrow win in MCA polls exposes divide

Narrow win in MCA polls exposes divide
Newly elected MCA president Liow Tiong Lai (centre, right) and his deputy Wee Ka Siong celebrate after winning the election at Wisma MCA, December 21, 2013.

KUALA LUMPUR- A close result for the leadership of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) indicates that the group will likely remain divided for years to come, diminishing any efforts to revamp the party and regain crucial Chinese voter support.

Against a backdrop of bitter infighting between factions led by former deputy president Liow Tiong Lai and the incumbent, Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek, delegates yesterday opted to promote Datuk Seri Liow to the top post along with his running mate Wee Ka Siong, the former Youth chief.

"Though they have government experience, it is difficult to imagine how they can focus on winning back Chinese support votes in the years to come with factionalism still rife," said political analyst Oh Ei Sun from Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

In a close race, Mr Liow won with a mere 26-vote majority over his two opponents who polled a combined 1,160 to his 1,186.

Mr Gan Ping Sieu, a former deputy sports minister who got 1,000 votes, is seen as a proxy for the faction linked to the former president, Dr Chua. Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, who was party president from October 2008 to March 2010, garnered only 160 votes, as members rejected Mr Ong who is often described as a "lone wolf".

Datuk Wee, who is aligned with Mr Liow's camp, fared better for himself in securing the deputy president's post with 1,408 votes against former deputy finance minister Donald Lim's 927 votes.

With one of the highest turnouts ever for the MCA party elections, observers expected the assembly for the senior Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition partner to be a crucial moment for the party to start turning its fortunes around after increasingly dismal showings in the last two general elections.

The MCA, formerly Malaysia's second-largest political party, has struggled to regain Chinese voter support following years of criticism that it has become a stooge to the dominant Umno party.

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