Saturday, 22 June 2013

What’s next for MCA? Primaries style candidate selection in Malaysia?


GE 13 showcased MCA’s worst performance in its history with the party contesting in 127 Parliament and state seats combined but lost a total of 108 of them which translates to the party’s failure rate of 85%. For a party with a long history such as MCA, many factors which accumulated over the years contribute to this poor performance.

It has been the norm in Malaysia that the leadership of the party is left on their own to decide which potential candidate should be contesting in which electoral constituency. There is almost none or very minimal public or grassroots members of the party’s participation in selecting a candidate in their constituency.

Thus, even members of the party are often left in dark over who will be the candidate until the very last minute. In most instances, party members roughly know which candidate from their party will be standing at their constituency via speculations among each other, over social media or the press.

In a few cases, disgruntled members of a party will stage protests and in most cases, the members will sabotage the candidate of their own party if the candidate is not to their liking or the candidate has been branded as a parachute candidate. As a result, this often comes at the price of party unity which often jeopardizes the chance of the party’s winning.

Waking up from the aftershock of this disastrous result, MCA members began to call for change. Time has come to rejuvenate our 64 years old party. The New Movement group which initiated the “MCA Change” campaign has identified that, among others, the candidate selection method need to be changed to include the public and grassroots members’ participation. 

Of course the technicalities of such change is still being debated whether it is suitable for the political climate of Malaysia. How it should be implemented, what are the criteria; whether will there be a debate between candidates and etc. can be discussed and determined later on if the party think that this is a good way to select its candidate for the general election.

For MCA to move forward and to reconnect itself with the voters, it can take a cue from the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom where in over 100 constituencies, the party’s candidates were selected at ‘primary meetings’ in which all voters (not just Conservative members) were able to participate. The party also experimented with “postal primaries” in two seats, attracting the participation of up to a quarter of registered voters.

As a MCA member, I hope that the party leadership can recognize the importance of including the grassroots members and members of the public in the candidate selection process for the coming general election to ensure the success of the party.

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