KUALA LUMPUR - Former Barisan Nasional (BN) component party Gerakan has decided that it will contest in next month's Tanjung Piai by-election.
This comes after the Malaysian media reported a few days ago that the now independent party was mulling to contest in the parliamentary ward located in Johor due to support from its grassroots.
On Saturday (Oct 12), president Dominic Lau confirmed that his party, which left BN in June last year following the coalition's loss to Pakatan Harapan (PH) at the 14th general election, will be fielding a candidate in the Nov 16 by-election.
"The central committee has decided that party deputy president Oh Tong Keong will be appointed as the by-election machinery director and the operations centre will be led by former Skudai assemblyman Teo Kok Chee, who is also the Johor Gerakan chairman," The Star quoted Datuk Lau as saying.
The seat fell vacant after its Member of Parliament (MP), Md Farid Md Rafik, died on Sept 21 due to a heart attack.
Both Umno and the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) have welcomed Gerakan's decision to throw its hat in the ring.
Both Umno and MCA are members of BN.
Tanjung Piai Umno chief Jefridin Atan, said anyone can contest in an election, adding that Gerakan's presence is not a problem at all.
"This is not an issue for us. The party and their division are not active at all in Tanjung Piai where they have done little groundwork," he told The Star.
MCA president Wee Ka Siong said BN will not be fazed even though the seat may see multiple candidates contesting.
"In a democratic society, anyone who wishes to contest in an election or any by-election have the right to do so. Whether it's a two-cornered or three-cornered contest, and even if there are more than five candidates, we will face it," he said, adding that the ultimate goal was to win the by-election.
The Tanjong Piai ward is located in south-west Johor on the edge of the Strait of Malacca, and is about an hour away by car from the Iskandar Puteri township (formerly Nusajaya) in Johor where Legoland is located.
There are 52,986 voters in the parliamentary constituency, of which 280 are early voters while eight are absentee voters.
Datuk Dr Farid, a medical doctor by profession, won Johor's Tanjung Piai seat with just 524 votes in a three-way contest in the May 2018 General Election, in a three-way fight against a candidate from BN and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).
With the recent formal agreement by BN and PAS to work closely together, PH could expect a stiff fight for the seat in the by-election.
BN has won all three by-elections this year, feeding the perception of an erosion of support among Malays and other voters just over a year into the PH administration.
The by-election would see the first formal cooperation between Umno/BN and PAS in an electoral contest, with the Tanjung Piai seat traditionally contested by MCA, a BN member.
Gerakan has never contested in the seat before.
However, Umno is clamouring to contest in Tanjung Piai, but the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president SA Vigneswaran reportedly insisted that MCA should be retained to contest the seat under the BN ticket.