JOHOR BARU: Johor DAP's past elections were mundane affairs with hardly any heated contest for the top position.
The 15 office bearers were usually decided among the 15 leaders voted in by the 500-odd delegates.
Nobody walked away empty-handed as at least they would be made a committee member.
The present Johor DAP chief Dr Boo Cheng Hau has always been re-elected as the chairman by the other winners since 2005.
But after the 13th General Election, the political balance in the state has shifted especially with DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang coming to Johor and winning the Gelang Patah parliamentary seat.
For the first time, a candidate - who is not Dr Boo - has come forward to offer himself as an alternative.
He is Liew Chin Tong, the Kluang MP.
Dr Boo, who had publicly announced that he would not defend his post sometime ago, caught many by surprise, when he did an about turn a week before the polls scheduled to be held in Batu Pahat on Sunday.
The Skudai assemblyman cited grassroots support and requests from members as his reasons for the change in heart.
On Sunday, 528 delegates will decide on the 15 - from the 23 contestants - to lead the party in Johor for the next three years.
At least a dozen of the names nominated are first timers.
The battle lines have been drawn between the two camps trying to control Johor DAP - one aligned to Dr Boo and the other to Kit Siang and his son Guan Eng who are backing Liew.
The father and son team want to curtail Dr Boo's influence.
Many regard Dr Boo as a strongly opinionated leader who is not afraid to speak up on party matters and Pakatan Rakyat.
This does not go down well with the Lims who want a "tame and docile" state chairman who is able to follow instructions and toe the party.
However as the final lap approaches, there seems to be more and more personal attacks against Dr Boo and even the emergence of a wish list comprising 13 names with Liew as chief and Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching as his deputy.
Liew, who was previously the Bukit Bendera MP in Penang, moved south to contest in Kluang and Teo moved from Serdang in Selangor to Kulai.
While some have described the Dr Boo and Liew race as healthy competition, others are saying that they are uneasy with the way things are unfolding. They are calling for delegates to reject the outsiders who they described as "Raiders from the North".
Dr Boo is widely expected to be chosen as one of the 15 committee members as the delegates acknowledge his sacrifices and contributions in building up the party in Johor.
(In GE13, DAP won 13 state seats and four parliamentary seats. The only seat the party lost was Paloh state seat.)
However, once the final 15 names are announced, it will then be a numbers’ game for Dr Boo to be elected as state chief.
He needs at least eight votes - through a secret balloting system - to be a clear winner.
Talk is also rife that there could be a last minute compromise between both camps with Dr Boo being retained as chief while his trusted deputy Norman Fernandez may have to make way for Liew.
It will be a captivating DAP state election to watch.
Will Dr Boo survive another attempt to end his political career? Will Johor DAP fall into the hands of the raiders from the North with the help of hidden hands?