Sunday, March 9, 2008


BN loss in Penang not unexpected

The political tsunami which swept Penang ending Gerakan’s almost four decade rule of the island was not unexpected. The writing had been on the wall, especially in the wake of several national and local issues which had enraged most Penangites. Topping the list of concerns was the perceived erosion of non-Malay rights under Barisan Nasional. The opposition exploited the dissatisfaction of voters and this could be seen in the huge crowds which turned up at its ceramah here. The issues ranged from alleged Urnno dominance in the state administration and Chief Minister Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon’s seeming inability to counter it.DAP top guns such as Karpal Singh, Lim Guan Eng and blogger Jeff Ooi Chuan Aun coupled with Parti Keadilan Rakyat de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim criticised Koh and the BN government. However, the BN campaign here was also derailed by the focus on the chief ministerial succession issue. Instead of focusing on the battle at hand, Koh and Gerakan leaders were preoccupied with this issue. The decline of Koh’s political fortune mirrors what happened to his predecessor Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, who also suffered a wave of dissatisfaction which led to his defeat. In the run-up to the 1990 general election, the opposition had capitalised on voter discontent which was then centred on the development of Bukit Bendera. The proposed re-development of Penang Hill (as Bukit Bendera is called) in the run-up to the 1990 general election had cost BN dearly, and forced the resignation of Dr Lim. The opposition in the run-up to the just-concluded polls had capitalised on the proposed redevelopment of the Penang Turf Club in Batu Gantung. In 1969, Gerakan won 16 out of 24 state seats. Dr Lim, the party’s founder, became the second chief minister. Following the May 13, 1969, riots after the general election, parliamentary rule was suspended and the government was taken over by the National Operations Council. It was only in April 1971 that the democratic government was restored. Gerakan joined the ruling coalition on Feb 13, 1972 and continued to govern Penang till now.