Selangor in Malaysia key battleground in elections
One thing is certain for the coming Malaysian general election the hottest battleground will be in Selangor.
Barisan Nasional has indicated over the past few years that it will go all out to wrest the state from Pakatan Rakyat (People's Alliance).
Pakatan, however, is determined to defend its turf and hold on to power for a second term.
A sign of commitment to Barisan's pledge can be seen in the strength of the state leadership, with Umno being led by Prime Minister Najib Razak himself while Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and Gerakan are represented by a federal minister and two deputy ministers.
MCA is helmed by Deputy Finance Minister Donald Lim Siang Chai. Gerakan is led by Deputy Foreign Minister A. Kohilan Pillay. MIC's charge in the state is spearheaded by party president G. Palanivel, who is minister in the Prime Minister's Department.
The intense battle for Selangor is not surprising. It is, after all, the golden goose of the nation. Economically, it has drawn in large sums of investments from abroad and locally.
Selangor Barisan coordinator Mohd Zin Mohamed has aptly described it as “the heartbeat of the country”.
Barisan is expected to focus its campaign around thorny issues such as illegal sand-mining, the perceived water crisis, a lack of affordable housing, high land premiums and unfulfilled electoral promises by Pakatan.
It will be interesting to watch how People's Justice Party (PKR), Pan-Mlaaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and Democratic Action Party (DAP) respond to these issues, as it will the first time they will be defending their position as a state government.
In 2008, some 21.5 per cent of state seats and 13 per cent of Parliament seats were won with a majority of less than 1,000 votes.
Many more were secured by slim margins. With these statistics, almost half the state could be considered hot seats.
Judging by these numbers, there could be several scenarios.
Pakatan commands about 60% of the state seats now. If all goes well for them, it is possible for them to lead the state by a two-third majority as they only need an additional six seats from their current tally.
But with the Barisan election machinery in overdrive, it is more likely that either Barisan or Pakatan will form the state government with a slim majority.
In Pandamaran, state exco member and incumbent assemblyman Ronnie Liu will face a stiff challenge from his former special assistant Tee Boon Hock if he chooses to defend his seat.
If Liu and Tee lock horns, they are expected to be joined by Klang MCA Youth chief Ching Eu Boon. He will be the main beneficiary of a three-cornered fight with the votes split between Liu and Tee.
In Gombak Setia, sacked state exco member Dr Hasan Ali would want to show his former party that he is far from finished.
The young turks
It will be a battle of the youths, as most of the candidates from both sides will be below 40.
Most of the Pakatan incumbents are first term wakil rakyat. They will face the young guns of Barisan such as Selangor Youth Council deputy president Badrul Hisham Badrudin, Selangor Youth Secretariat (Serang) president Budiman Mohd Zohdi, Selangor Anti-Irregularities Federation (GAPS) president Hamdizun Khairuddin, and Sepang MCA chief Ng Chok Sin.
Selangor Gerakan chief A. Kohilan Pillay will take on DAP's Gobind Singh Deo in Puchong, while the four state seats contested by Gerakan will feature new faces.
There is speculation that Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim will move from the semi-rural seat of Ijok to urban Bukit Lanjan, replacing state exco member Elizabeth Wong.
The rationale is that the former corporate leader can connect better with urban voters, who have different needs and expectations from the rural electorate. Wong is tipped to move to a parliamentary constituency.
Gombak MP and Bukit Antarabangsa assemblyman Azmin Ali is expected to have an easy win. Some of his supporters are lobbying for him to succeed Khalid as mentri besar.
This has not been well received by Khalid's camp. Although the speculation has been going on for several years, no senior PKR leader has come out to endorse either Azmin or Khalid as mentri besar.
Barisan has so far kept its choice of candidate for mentri besar under wraps.
In Pandan, PKR's Rafizi Ramli is still guessing who his opponent would be. Will it be incumbent Ong Tee Keat or Pandan MCA legal bureau chief Gary Lim? Conspiracy theorists are working overtime there, with some even speculating that Ong would contest as an independent should he be dropped from the candidates' list.
In Kapar, PKR's incumbent MP S. Manikasavagam is determined to defend the seat despite facing internal pressure from some factions within his party. He will face off with MIC central committee member A. Sakthivell, whose posters can be seen all over the constituency now.
A dentist, Dr V. Nedunchelian, has announced his intention to contest as an independent.
To complicate matters, Sementa assemblyman and Kapar Barisan chief Abdul Rahman Palil has proposed a swap of seat between Umno and MIC, with Umno taking the Kapar parliamentary seat in exchange for the Sementa state seat.