SOMETHING unusual has happened in the state DAP in the run-up to the 13th general elections – the party’s state chairman Wong Ho Leng has announced two of their candidates before the dissolution of the parliament.
Ho Leng has never divulged the party’s candidates before the dissolution of either state assembly or parliament before and eyebrows were raised when he announced on May 18 last year that the party’s Senadin branch chairperson Lim Sui Kien will contest in Miri. Just a couple of days ago, he also confirmed that his special assistant Oscar Ling is the party’s choice for Sibu.
Such an unprecedented move is seen as an attempt to quell the jostling for seats among DAP’s second echelon and nip in the bud growing discord among supporters of these aspiring candidates.
Squabbles over seats are inevitable in political parties – it is actually a good sign that the organisation is vibrant with many leaders eager to step forward and take up the challenge of facing the voters.
However, it can also be a cause of disunity and resentment among the party’s ranks and the leaders often have to step in and make a firm decision to stop the lobbying from damaging the party’s chances in the polls.
DAP is grappling with this threat now and has to move quickly to limit the damage and give the different camps time to bury the hatchet and close rank behind their candidates.
Of the party’s two confirmed nominations, that of Lim is the more contentious as it has caused discontentment among DAP members in Miri.
In fact, the rift is so deep that a faction within the party, calling itself ‘Anti-Spoilt Votes Committee’ was formed with the sole mission to bring Lim down by requesting the party not to confirm her candidacy.
The faction has reportedly even threatened to urge the public to cast “spoilt votes” in protest against Lim standing in Miri.
This has forced state DAP secretary general Chong Chieng Jen to reaffirm her candidacy for Miri last Sunday.
However, Chong’s firm stand on the issue seemed to have stirred up more anger among DAP members in Miri, leading to a group of them staging a protest against Lim’s candidacy on Tuesday.
Turning the tables on Chong, who is also the MP for Bandar Kuching, the group suggested he swaps seats with Lim in the coming polls.
Significantly, Pujut state assemblyman Fong Pau Teck was among the protesters. Pujut is one of the state constituencies that make up Miri parliamentary seat.
DAP cannot ignore the seething resentment against Lim but the party’s leadership have always been known to be firm in their decisions.
They are not likely to eat humble pie and back down on the choice of their Senadin chairman for the Miri seat and this could cost the party dear at the polling booth.
Unlike Miri, DAP’s situation in Sibu was brought about by circumstance rather than by choice.
Ho Leng’s illness has forced him to give up defending his seat, hence presenting an unexpected opening for a few face to joust for the Sibu parliamentary seat.
Ho Leng’s withdrawal has alerted several DAP members waiting in the wings and the first to throw his hat into the ring was Sibu local boy Dr Tang Sie Hing, a 45-year-old cardiologist, now working in Kuching.
Although he has the support of a faction in DAP’s Sibu branch, he is not the party’s leadership choice.
Perhaps taking a lesson from the party’s predicament in Miri, Ho Leng moved quickly to announce (Oscar) Ling as his replacement in the hope that the move would forestall any bitter bickering over the Sibu parliamentary seat.
It is now left to be seen whether Dr Tang and his supporters will accept Ling’s candidacy and rally behind him in upcoming polls.
Whatever the consequence of the unparalleled early confirmation by Ho Leng of the two new candidates (Lim and Ling), it is an indication that something is brewing DAP – and it smells like trouble.