Make or break week for snap election in Penang


  • Analysis
  • Tuesday, 26 Jul 2016

THE solidarity campaign for DAP leader Lim Guan Eng (pic) kicked off in Shah Alam on Sunday night. It was a rather grand sit-down dinner with lots of people and speeches in support of the beleaguered Penang Chief Minister.

Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali was also there to lend his support and his speech in defence of his Penang counterpart was one of the strongest that evening.

The PKR deputy president has not held back in terms of moral support for Lim and he said he was convinced that Lim would be found innocent of all the charges. It was what the DAP supporters in the audience wanted to hear and there was thunderous applause.

But Azmin has not been able to offer what DAP wants most of all and that is to get his party to come along in DAP’s quest for a snap election.

PKR’s political bureau will meet tonight on the snap polls proposal but no one is expecting any surprises.

It is clear by now that the PKR rank and file is not convinced of the need for one.

Some say that it is time for PKR to stop beating around the bush and the meeting tonight has to come out with a clear-cut stand.

If the party is still not persuaded or ready for early polls, then it should say so instead of making diplomatic remarks about needing time to discuss and consult.

PKR leaders feel for what Lim is going through but they think that an early election is akin to asking them to jump from Penang Bridge – some will swim to safety, a few will be swept way. They feel their position is not like that of DAP where “Chinese lifeboats” will be waiting to ferry them to shore.

There has been all kinds of confusing information claiming that Azmin, his president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and even the man in Sungai Buloh have given their consent.

But it was all untrue. PKR is quite unanimous against the snap polls for self-survival reasons as well as out of common sense.

Many of the PKR seats in Penang are mixed seats and the party is not sure of the Malay vote. It is also worried about multi-cornered fights given PAS’ threat to contest all the seats.

Self-survival is their first priority and that is a pretty strong motivation.

PKR leaders are also upset about some of the remarks coming from DAP, claiming that PKR is afraid to face the voters again because it has not performed.

“You want us to come along, you need to convince us that we will also benefit. It is like you ask a girl out for date and when she is reluctant, you go in front of her house and say she is refusing because she is not good-looking. You think she will come out?” said a Penang PKR assemblyman.

One of PKR’s chief concerns is Permatang Pauh, the flagship parliamentary seat that stands as a symbol of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Permatang Pauh comprises three state seats – Seberang Jaya and Penanti which are held by PKR and Permatang Pasir which is held by PAS.

The last general election was the first time that all three seats went to the then Pakatan Rakyat. But Seberang Jaya and Permatang Pasir may fall if there are three-cornered fights.

It is understood that Dr Wan Azizah is concerned that will undermine her party’s hold on Permatang Pauh.

Batu Maung, another PKR seat on the island, is also in danger. Its assemblyman Malik Kassim has claimed that there has been gerrymandering with some 2,000-plus voters moved into his constituency, changing the dynamics of the seat.

PKR has also learnt well from the disastrous Kajang Move which was presented as a strategy to save Selangor from racial chaos but was aimed at saving Anwar.

PKR retained the Kajang seat but it was a case of winning the battle and losing the war because the ripples went beyond Kajang and Selangor.

The same may happen if the snap election takes place in Penang.

Pakatan Harapan will retain the state but its image, especially outside of Penang, will be affected.

Going by the mixed reviews in the social media thus far, the impact could be many times worse than that over the Kajang Move.

DAP members are naturally upset with PKR. They say DAP had also disapproved of the Kajang Move but their top leaders had campaigned and delivered the Chinese vote to Dr Wan Azizah.

They feel betrayed that PKR is not returning the favour in this time of need.

Lim has given his commitment that snap polls will not be a unilateral decision. Besides, his party alone does not have the numbers needed to dissolve the state assembly.

Of the 40 state seats in Penang, DAP has 19, PKR 10, PAS 1 and Umno 10. DAP needs at least 21 signatories to effectively argue its case for dissolution.

Lawyers have pointed out that the Penang Governor has “total discretionary powers” to dissolve the state assembly upon request from the Chief Minister. Lim is said to enjoy a good working relationship with the Penang Governor who gave him a consoling hug a few days after Lim was charged in court.

But the Governor would also want to be assured that the majority of the assemblymen are for the snap election before he gives his stamp of approval.

According to Unisel vice-chancellor Datuk Prof Redzuan Othman, Pakatan Harapan is in an awkward situation.

“One partner is seen as not helping their friend who wants a snap election. The other partner is seen as sacrificing their friends in the election,” he said.

Redzuan said a snap election is not going to impress voters who want to see a united opposition front that can take on Barisan Nasional.

The snap polls proposal has dominated the news for the past one week but it is unlikely to happen if there is still no consensus by this week.

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