I was not surprised by Dr Koh Tsu Koon’s announcement that he will not contest the next election. Contrary to his view, I do not see this as a sacrifice – not to mention ‘ultimate sacrifice’ – but rather as a political reality that confronts him.
In fact, at this stage, he has only the following three options:
1. Do not stand in the next GE and thus slowly pace himself out of active politics
2. Go to contest a parliamentary seat as head of a component party . But looking at the 12 Gerakan parliamentary seats, his chances of winning is slim except perhaps standing in Simpang Rengam in Johore . But if he goes down to Simpang Renggam, a ‘safe’ seat compared to the 11 others, he would have dealt the party image and morale , already low after 308, a killer punch. It would be viewed as placing his own personal interest above party to run away from hard battles and go to a safe seat.
As Gerakan State chairman of Wilayah, he may be able to stand in one of the three Gerakan seats in KL ( Batu, Segambut or Kepong), but looking at the sentiments of urban voters here, his chances of winning is slim.
3. He can of course go back and stand against his nemesis, Lim Guan Eng. This move would actually lift the morale of the Gerakan members and would in a sense help Gerakan candidates standing in other areas. This would in a way erase the ‘backdoor’ minister image as well as prove that he is not the brand of seedless durian that some people have labeled him. His chances of winning in Penang, where his reputation has taken a beating, is almost nil but in taking on Lim Guan Eng, he may help lift the sagging image of the party. This I would actually term it as the ‘ultimate sacrifice’.
But knowing the type of ‘gentleman’ personality that he is, I have long predicted to friends and analysts that he would probably choose the number one option. After all, it is just not in his character to fight such a battle, and furthermore he has already been chief minister for 18 years and a minister for 2. There is no more heights for him to scale, so to speak.
This announcement will be the first step for him to go out of the political scene, for the party election which was supposed to be held this year would have to be held in the next 15 months. So in the mean time , he would be the transitional president till the next party election.
He is supposed to name the Gerakan candidate for Penang BN chair today. In reality, whoever takes over as BN chairman has a mammoth task of taking on Lim Guan Eng and Co.
In the next General election, the chances of BN winning back Penang is very slim given the prevailing sentiments. This is not helped by the fact that a few international media houses have published articles praising the present Penang administration.
To change horse at this 11th hour may be a little too late. However, to those people vying to be BN Penang Chairman, which would enhance the person’s claim to Penang Chief ministership in the very unlikely event that BN wins, this is a chance that none of them want to let pass.
Thus there is intense lobbying to be the next BN chairman. Even comrades can become foes. It actually gives a feeling of déjà vu; in the run-up to the last General Election, a few of the eligible candidates were openly fighting -and in the process destroying whatever chance there was for Gerakan– for the Chief Ministership even before Gerakan had gone into battle.
In my opinion, whoever is now chosen to be Penang BN chairman would have too little time to manuever, and Penangites have more or less make up their minds to give LGE & Co another term.
It would indeed take a miracle to change this.
(This article is also posted in Malaysian Insider side view coloumn here).