On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Crackling hot

The Prime Minister is scheduled to attend three big Chinese New Year events, the first one at Bandar Tun Razak.

The MCA has chosen not to host its open house from its party headquarters in Jalan Ampang for the first time ever. Instead, it has picked an open field near the low-cost flats at Bandar Tun Razak, where the Prime Minister will be attending.

The event on Feb 10, the first day of the festival, is expected to be the largest MCA gathering before the polls. Bandar Tun Razak is also the parliamentary seat of Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and has a sizeable Malay electorate with 53%.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will then travel to Penang where another CNY gathering will be held at the Han Chiang High School field, a popular venue of the DAP in holding its mega ceramahs.

Next, he goes to Kulai Jaya, Johor, on the third day of the CNY to send a message to the Chinese voters in the state, where a large number of MCA leaders come from.

While the general perception is that the DAP has locked up a huge chunk of the Chinese vote for the coming polls, the PM appears to think otherwise.

He has picked Penang, a fortress of the DAP, to meet Chinese voters, even if most political analysts see Penang as a lost cause for the BN.

But they also said that while the DAP has secured the Chinese votes, the same cannot be said about the Malay and Indian votes, whose roles would be crucial in many constituencies, especially on the mainland.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng remains popular with the Penang Chinese voters but his relations with the Malay and Indian voters would be put to a test in this polls, given the numerous controversial issues that have surfaced.

Of the 40 state seats in Penang, 29 are held by Pakatan and 11 by Barisan, all from Umno. At parliamentary level, there are 13 seats – Pakatan holds nine, while Umno has two. The remaining two are independent MPs formerly from Pakatan.

In Johor, where MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek comes from, the message that the BN wants to send this time is that it intends to protect its stronghold, long regarded as the home of Umno.

Despite the possibility of Pakatan Rakyat making a dent in some areas, it is unlikely that Pakatan Rakyat can capture the state.

But more interesting will be what promises and hopes the PM will deliver to the Chinese voters.

There is a long list of grievances from the Chinese community and he has to use the festival to reassure them that he is the best bet as the PM for the nation.

It will either be him, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim of PKR or Datuk Seri Hadi Awang from PAS. Najib has asked for a big mandate to ensure he can carry out his programmes and policies.

Not many want to talk about the impact of post-GE13 on Umno as the focus is on winning the general election first, but the reality is that the results of the elections will have its bearing on the continued leadership of Najib.

It is wishful thinking to believe that Pakatan Rakyat would form the next federal government but it is realistic to say that the coalition will stage its biggest and strongest challenge ever in the history of Malaysian elections.

The fact that almost all the DAP leaders are contesting both state and parliamentary seats is testimony to the fact that they themselves do not believe they will form the next federal government.

For the DAP, it has taken advantage of the Chinese New Year festival by posting a few creative video clips on YouTube and via DVD.

Selangor DAP leader Teresa Kok, who has a reputation for her imaginative CNY cards, has taken on acting roles to send a parody of several issues that the DAP is banking on.

The Selangor exco member posed as a restaurant captain in one clip where she introduced a “new menu” to “her customers” who complained of having “the same dishes”.

In another clip, she acted as a hairstylist, where she told her customer to have a new hairstyle – in this case, meaning a new government.

As both sides of the political divide push up the momentum during the festival, the order is out that all operations centres for the elections must be opened.

The flags are already up and once the celebrations are over, we can be sure to hear some real political firecrackers in what will surely be the hottest general election ever.