Malaysia

BN ups ante in Penang as Anwar’s popularity drops

By Jahabar Sadiq
Editor

April 23, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 — Aggressive leadership by new Penang Barisan Nasional (BN) chief Teng Chang Yeow and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s declining popularity within the state are giving the federal coalition hope that it can claw back support in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) showcase state in the next general election.

The Malaysian Insider understands that BN wants to contain popular Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to just defend the state rather than campaign elsewhere in the coming elections.

Sources say a DAP internal survey has shown that Anwar’s (picture) popularity is slipping even in his own Permatang Pauh federal seat.

“Lim has to do more now because Malay support is being chipped. Anwar’s popularity has dropped to just over 50 per cent in Permatang Pauh and there is some cause for concern,” a DAP source told The Malaysian Insider.

He said Lim has been urging his party DAP and its coalition allies PAS and PKR to campaign harder to keep the state, where PR has 29 out of the 40 seats in the state assembly. Umno controls the other 11 seats.

“Lim is saying that no seat is safe so as to get them to fight harder to keep the state,” another source said.

Penang is Anwar’s home state and the Permatang Pauh seat has been his political fortress since his entry into national politics in 1982.

DAP insiders say there is no threat to Anwar losing his seat but a poor performance could be the catalyst for BN’s resurgence in the state.

“Lim is assured of the Chinese vote but the Malay vote is vital and Umno believes it can get that demographic while Gerakan’s Chang Yeow works on providing an alternative to the DAP leadership,” a BN source told The Malaysian Insider.

Prime Minister and BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced Chang Yeow’s new post yesterday, ending six months of behind-the-scenes wrangling for the state BN leadership.

The Malaysian Insider had reported as early as last November that Chang Yeow would replace Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon ahead of the next general election but party politics delayed the appointment.

State Gerakan chief Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan will remain in his post but a remote BN victory will propel Chang Yeow as a potential chief minister over him. It is understood that Gerakan will also get more seats at the expense of the MCA in the next general election.

“Najib’s visit over the weekend is to shore up Penang BN and tell them the state is as important as others in the next elections,” another BN source said.

Chang Yeow was a three-term state assemblyman for Padang Kota between 1995 and 2008 when he lost the seat and the state BN government fell. He was a state executive councillor between 2004 and 2008. He is best remembered as the politician who defeated DAP chairman Karpal Singh for the Padang Kota state seat in the 1995 general election with a majority of more than 2,500 votes.

Hock Nan has been Penang Gerakan chief since 2008 and has been a party vice-president since 2005. He has also spent three terms as an assemblyman and was slotted to be a potential chief minister if Gerakan kept the state government in Election 2008.

Koh, who recently renewed his term as a senator, had announced that he will not take part in the coming general election after BN-linked media spoke about the need for changes in the multi-racial party.

It is understood that the view in Putrajaya is that the mild-mannered Gerakan chief should step down as head of the BN component party before the general election if the coalition is to have any chance of wresting back Penang from PR.