GEORGE TOWN – The Barisan Nasional is all set to take on the ruling opposition Pakatan Harapan in Penang in the coming general election, regarded by many as the mother of all elections.
Penang, which has been under a DAP-led government for the last two terms, is seen as a stronghold of Pakatan Harapan, but that is no gauge to dismiss the BN possibility of increasing the number of its parliamentary and state seats in the state.
The BN currently holds 10 of the 40 state seats through UMNO and three of the 13 parliamentary seats.
Many quarters feel that on paper it is difficult for BN to win more seats in Penang in the 14th general election, let alone recapture the state, but there is a glimmer of hope yet considering the various issues that have been plaguing the state government of late.
The issue of the floods, lack of affordable houses for the young, traffic congestion and allegations of corruption have exposed the weakness of the DAP-led state government, said Penang BN chairman Teng Chang Yeow.
He said Penang BN can bring to fruition the aspiration of Deputy Prime Minister and BN deputy chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for BN to win more seats in the state.
“All the (BN) component parties are ready for GE14; only the candidates have yet to be determined. Everything else is ready … in terms of information material, manifesto, machinery, and understanding and cooperation among the component parties at the level of the constituencies and polling districts.
“Understanding has been established. Component parties understand their respective roles in their localities … there has been collaborative effort up to today,” he said to Bernama.
Ahmad Zahid, during a visit last week to the Pearl of the Orient, expressed confidence that BN can increase the number of state and parliamentary seats in Penang.
Teng, who has been given the responsibility to head the BN machinery in the state, said Ahmad Zahid’s words spurred the spirit of the machinery at the grassroots into considering the possibility of BN recapturing the state.
“The confidence of the deputy prime minister is not without basis in view of the many complaints and feelings of dissatisfaction over the policies of the state government.
“If we consider all these laments and compare them with those uttered during the last general election (in 2013), there could be a change in the pattern of voting. At the BN, we can feel that change. We feel that it is a much better sign than what we felt in the last general election,” he said.
Teng also said that the sentiments expressed by the people of Penang were unlike those heard in the last general election. Then, the people defended whatever the DAP-led government had done, he said. Now, they were beginning to raise questions, he added.
“Previously, some people did not want to discuss anything at all. When we criticise DAP, many will come to its defence, even giving explanations on its behalf. Now, such voices are almost silent. I am not saying there is no more opposition, a little perhaps because there are still the hardcore supporters,” he said.
Teng admitted that there were still the so-called black areas for BN which were difficult to penetrate, such as the Bagan parliamentary seat held by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and the Bukit Gelugor parliamentary seat which Ram Karpal Singh represented.
Coming back to the component parties, he said there was commitment and cooperation at the level of the grassroots although he did not rule out the possibility of some differences of opinion which he felt could be resolved.
“There are no problems in terms of principles and workflow. The matter of party agents for the counting and tallying of votes has been resolved. It is normal for there to be issues arising out of party stands,” he said.
On Ahmad Zahid’s request for Gerakan to win three state seats, Teng, who is also Penang Gerakan chairman, said: “We are optimistic of winning three seats, perhaps even more.”
Asked about the sentiments of Chinese voters, he said the party coordinators who had gone down to the ground reported back that the sentiments were not as bad as they were during the previous general election.
Teng also said that there were no changes in the distribution of state seats among the component parties, with UMNO contesting 15; Gerakan, 13; MCA, 10; and MIC, two. UMNO is contesting five parliamentary seats, and Gerakan and MCA, four each.
Pakatan Harapan recently announced its distribution of seats among the component parties.
DAP is contesting 19 seats ( Sungai Puyu; Bagan Jermal; Bagan Dalam; Berapit; Padang Lalang; Perai; Jawi; Tanjong Bungah; Air Putih; Pulau Tikus; Padang Kota; Pengkalan Kota; Komtar; Datuk Keramat; Sungai Pinang; Batu Lancang; Seri Delima; Air Itam; and Paya Terubong).
PKR is fielding candidates in 14 seats, namely Pinang Tunggal; Telok Air Tawar; Seberang Jaya; Penanti; Machang Bubuk; Bukit Tengah; Bukit Tambun; Sungai Bakap; Sungai Acheh; Kebuh Bunga; Batu Uban; Pantai Jerejak; Batu Maung; and Pulau Betong.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) is contesting in four seats (Penaga; Bertam; Teluk Bahang; and Permatang Berangan) and Parti Amanah Negara in three (Sungai Dua; Permatang Pasir and Bayan Lepas).
“We also watching their announcements, then we will decide. We will see what their strategy is, then we will work out our strategy. We are monitoring the changes they are making,” he said.
Teng dismissed claims that contests among three or more candidates would favour BN, saying it was feared that some candidates may draw away the BN supporters.
“It is difficult for us to make projections because some new parties attract people who are not DAP supporters. The BN splinter parties may draw away BN supporters. If there are DAP splinter parties, then the scenario may be different.
“I am concerned about the emergence of these new parties, splinters of Gerakan and MCA,” he said. – BERNAMA