1. As the heat of General Election is increasing, one of the most talked about issues among the BN members is inevitably about searching for right candidates to contest for the State and Parliament seats. Datuk Seri (DS) Najib had several times mentioned that BN will not place just any candidate but the candidate must be a “winnable candidate”. Say what? A winnable candidate? These questions rushed into my mind. So did he also mean after all these years BN have been putting candidates that were short of having winnable qualities?
2. DS Najib further described that a winnable candidate need not hold any post in the party where an ordinary member would suffice. According to him, the most important thing is that the candidate could garner majority acceptance and support from voters within and outside the party.
3. Are those descriptions “hard and fast” rules in determining whether a candidate is winnable or otherwise? What situations warrant a preference for an ordinary member to be chosen over the party division’s top brass? What benchmark should be adopted in gauging acceptance and support from the voters? Frankly, those descriptions may sound complete yet in reality those descriptions are still far from drawing any picture of certainty.
4. The notion of “winnable candidate” was first tested during Bagan Pinang State bye election. When the election was called, BN was quite worried as BN had lost all previous bye elections and due to that record, there was a possibility the opposition might strengthen its hold in Negeri Sembilan State Legislative Assembly. BN’s top brass gave a directive that Telok Kemang UMNO/BN division to submit three names for consideration but Telok Kemang UMNO/BN division gave only Tan Sri (TS) Mohd Isa name as the sole candidate to contest in the bye election. This inevitably attracted criticisms from many quarters. Even Tun Mahathir opined that TS Mohd Isa was not a suitable candidate. Telok Kemang UMNO/BN division did not budge from its decision and due to its persistence the BN’s top brass gambled by following the division’s decision. Evidently, the gambling move paid off. BN turned as victor in Bagan Pinang bye-election, after 7 consecutive defeats in previous bye elections.
5. Viewing Bagan Pinang’s experience, it was not surprising to see TS Mohd Isa won the election. He was Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar for nearly 22 years as compared to his opponent who was hardly known to the locals. In bye elections subsequent to Bagan Pinang’s, BN mostly fielded fresh faces and yet BN still manage to win them. If Bagan Pinang experience is taken as a precedent, the winnable candidate must be the one that the Division chooses and a former “wakil rakyat” or a former MP still stand a chance to contest in the election. However, for other subsequent bye elections, fresh faces were preferred. So it is not wrong for me to say that the notion of “winnable candidate” varies from one instance to another! Neither there is a conclusive formula nor rule in picking a “winnable candidate”.
6. Recently, it was reported in a newspaper that the Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan openly offered Datuk Chua Soi Lek, the MCA President, to contest in Negeri Sembilan for the coming election. It was unclear however; whether the offer was made out of a political strategy or out of good will or might even out of desperation. No doubt, Datuk Chua is a well-known figure. One,for he is the MCA leader and another for his discreet affair. Perhaps the Chinese voters can accept him but what about the Malay voters? After all, he is not local. As seen in 2008 election, voters preferred the contesting candidate to be local. Did the Menteri Besar consider “winnable candidate” factors before throwing this offer to Datuk Chua? Truly, this is so mind- challenging!
7. Be that as it may, the issue of picking a winnable candidate is truly a profound issue. We, the rakyat/ the members/the small leaders may only guess and speculate. The true and the right formula are always in DS Najib’s mind and is only known to him and to himself alone. The BN Division and the BN State Liaison may propose but only DS Najib disposes.
8. As a rakyat, as a party member and as a small leader, I ardently hope that whoever the chosen candidate is, he or she must be able to serve the people well. Putting people first shall be the order of the day!