By ZUBAIDAH ABU BAKAR | firstname.lastname@example.org comments
NO HOPE FOR OPPOSITION: Ali moving to the federal level won't affect BN's strength
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam (right) at the launch of the Urban Transformation Centre and ‘Jelajah Janji Ditepati’ carnival in Malacca last month.
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BY the reckoning of Malacca's Barisan Nasional leaders and most political observers, the ruling coalition will retain control of the state despite the opposition onslaught.
They came to the same conclusion with or without BN Malacca strongman Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam leading the charge at the impending general election.
Within BN circles, the worst case scenario for the coalition, which has never been defeated in this historical state, is a reduced majority in some seats on top of the five state seats and one parliamentary seat currently lost to the DAP.
Pakatan Rakyat leaders, on the other hand, are optimistic that BN can be ousted, holding rallies with the tagline Kerajaan Baru, Impian Baru.
The DAP claims its fund-raising dinners and other opposition gatherings have been well attended. The much discussed issue of Ali switching to a parliamentary seat or another state seat is seen as proof that BN is under pressure.
The talk is that he will contest in the Paya Rumput state constituency, or the Jasin or Tangga Baru parliamentary seat.
The opposition mocked the opening of the "Ali Rustam Gallery" in Bukit Katil as his way of saying farewell.
The Malacca DAP blog posted a Chinese newspaper clipping of the gallery at Ali's old family residence, which has 20,000 exhibits including photographs of the chief minister in his school days and various mementoes, with a heading questioning whether BN was predicting defeat.
Malacca has six parliamentary seats and 28 state seats. BN currently holds five parliamentary seats (four by Umno and one by MCA). Umno also holds the lion's share of state seats with 18, while MCA has four and MIC one.
DAP holds the Kota Melaka parliamentary seat and the Kesidang, Ayer Keroh, Kota Laksamana, Bachang and Bandar Hilir state seats. Except for Bandar Hilir, the others are considered "hot" seats by BN election workers.
Kota Laksamana especially, which is held by Betty Chew Gek Cheng, the wife of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, is shaky. She has not been serving her constituents and has made Penang her home.
The seat in the heart of Malacca's heritage site, a DAP fortress since 1982, is likely to be contested by Malacca People's Progressive Party chairman Datuk Chiw Tiang Chye, who has been making his presence felt there in the past few months.
Traditionally a seat contested by the MCA, it is one of three under the Kota Melaka parliamentary constituency. The other two are Kesidang and Banda Hilir.
In January, Ali said the PPP would be given a chance to contest the seat after several failed attempts by MCA to capture it.
Ali, who will be 63 next month, harbours hope that he will be given the opportunity to help steer the nation and bring progress and development to all states, just as he has done for Malacca. It surprised some local politicians that he mentioned serving at the federal level during an interview with the New Sunday Times early this month. In fact, there has been talk that he wanted to take up bigger challenges since late last year.
Ali insisted that there were many capable leaders who could take over from him.
"In Malacca, we are not short of capable leaders. Everyone from my administration could be my successor," he was quoted as saying.
The question is, who will it be?
While the most popular name bandied by those outside Malacca was Tangga Batu MP Datuk Idris Harun, the local Umno crowd is pointing at state executive councillors Datuk Ghafar Atan (Gadek), Datuk Md Yunus Husin (Ayer Molek) and Datuk Zaini Md Nor, chief executive officer of SolidWaste and Public Cleansing Corporation and former mayor of Malacca Historical City Council.
An equally important question is whether Malacca will continue to thrive without Ali.
Malacca has been transformed since he took over as chief minister from Datuk Abu Zahar Isnin in December 1999. His name has become synonymous with Malacca and its reputation as a tourism state.
His achievements have not gone unnoticed. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was all praise for Ali and Malacca recently, saying the state had proven itself as one that was better governed than those of the opposition.
Launching Malaysia's first Urban Transformation Centre in Jalan Tan Chay Yan in conjunction with Malacca's edition of the government's Jelajah Janji Ditepati programme, Najib acknowledged that Malacca had beaten the opposition-led states in six areas: tourism, cleanliness, poverty eradication, unemployment, building homes for the hardcore poor and the state's administration, for which the chief minister's department was recently awarded five-star status.
In the past, the opposition had to contend with a mighty BN machinery and Ali's personal clout. This was shown again in the Merlimau by-election in February last year.
Some political watchers believe the "Ali Rustam factor" alone had won half the battle, which cemented BN's unassailable superiority over Pakatan Rakyat in Malacca.
"I prefer him to stay and continue developing the state. But if his services are needed at the national level, then it is good for him," Datuk Ghazali Muhamad, first-term assemblyman for Serkam, said.
Ghazali and Sungai Rambai assemblyman Datuk Hasan Rahman are among the local Umno politicians who think it would be Malacca's loss if Ali were to go to federal level.
Although speculation of Ali contesting a federal seat has been around for some time, he has only recently come out publicly about his desire to move to Putrajaya. But what is certain is that with or without Ali, the opposition will find it hard to beat Malacca BN when the big day comes.