UMNO members in Tanjung Piai want MCA to give up the parliamentary seat for the division chief Jefridin Atan to contest in the coming by-election, said party sources.
These members believed that the Malay party stood a better chance than its Chinese coalition partner of regaining the seat lost to Pakatan Harapan in last year’s general election.
The sources said all 88 branch leaders in the division had agreed to demand that MCA, which was narrowly defeated in the May 2018 polls, give way to an Umno candidate.
“If the branch leaders in the division were to be successful in their bid, who better to be the candidate than the division chief? The party leadership will have to take note of the matter as it is what the grassroots want,” warned a local party leader, who did not want to be named.
“If someone else were to be named or if MCA were to be given the seat, Umno members would likely sabotage the by-election (campaign).
“Furthermore everyone here knows Jefridin. He was touted as a potential candidate for GE14.”
Last week 88 Umno branches under the Tanjung Piai division agreed in a meeting to ask for the seat for the by-election.
The meeting was also attended by leaders of Tanjung Piai Umno Wanita, Youth and Puteri wings.
When contacted Jefridin said the division wanted the seat as MCA had failed to retain the support of the voters in the constituency, and have fared poorly in subsequent elections.
“We called for a division meeting in preparation for the by-election. Our will to contest in this seat is very strong.
“During GE14, MCA candidate Wee Jeck Seng lost in nine areas where Chinese voters were the majority. In several mixed areas, he only won marginally.
“Percentage wise, MCA’s votes have been on a slide since GE12, until they lost the seat in the last general election,” he said.
Apart from Jefridin, four other names have been brought forward as a Barisan Nasional candidate, including former Johor menteri besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who is Umno vice-president, and Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan in Negri Sembilan.
Wee, who is Tanjung Piai MCA chief, is said to be keen on contesting in the by-election. MCA is also considering fielding its Youth chief Nicole Wong.
The seat fell vacant following the sudden death of the incumbent, Dr Md Farid Md Rafik of Bersatu.
Farid, 42, died of a heart attack in Johor. He was the Tanjung Piai Bersatu vice-chief.
He defeated Wee by 524 votes.
In a three-cornered fight, Farid garnered 21,255 votes while Wee gained 20,731 votes. PAS’s Nordin Othman managed to win 2,962 votes.
Wee had held the seat since 2008. Before that, it was held by Ong Ka Ting.
Meanwhile, Bersatu is said to have shortlisted three candidates for the by-election. They are Tanjung Piai Bersatu chief Karmaine Sardini and former Kukup state rep Suhaimi Salleh.
The third person is Farid’s mother Norma Mohamed who is Tanjung Piai Bersatu Wanita chief.
The constituency has 53,528 voters, of which 56.8% are Malay, 41.64% Chinese, 1.01% Indian, 0.55% others.
The Election Commission is meeting today to set a date to go to the polls.
Johor Umno backs Hishammuddin as BN sec-gen
JOHOR Umno said it welcomed suggestions that former Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein be appointed as Barisan Nasional secretary-general.
Johor Umno chairman Hasni Mohammad said the chapter felt Hishammuddin’s presence in BN would only strengthen the coalition.
“In a meeting today we agreed to give our support to Hishammuddin to be appointed to the position.
“We are confident his appointment to the post will strengthen BN,” he said after chairing the meeting in Johor Baru.
Hishammuddin was also present in the meeting.
It was previously reported that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as well as MCA president Wee Ka Siong and MIC president S. Vigneswaran all agreed to appoint Hishammuddin as BN’s new secretary-general.
The agreement was reportedly made following their meeting in Kuala Lumpur on August 27.
The position is presently held by Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, who faces criminal charges for corruption.