AYER HITAM - Malaysia's opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) has named its candidate for the closely watched seat of Ayer Hitam, paving the way for a showdown with the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) at the upcoming polls.
DAP's Johor chief Liew Chin Tong will be opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan's candidate for the Ayer Hitam parliamentary seat in the coming polls, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng announced on Sunday (March 18).
Mr Liew, 40, is currently the MP for Kluang constituency in Johor, a key battleground in Malaysia's upcoming elections. The polls are widely expected to be called next month (April).
He unseated former deputy minister for higher education Hou Kok Chung in the last election with 40,574 votes against Hou's 33,215.
MCA deputy president Wee Ka Siong. 49, has been the MP for Ayer Hitam for three terms, reported Malaysian media.
Mr Wee's rivals in all three general elections were from Malaysia's Islamist party PAS ( Parti Islam SeMalaysia) which broke ties with its opposition partners in 2015 following a bitter feud over its Islamic agenda and leadership candidates.
According to local media, Mr Wee's majority steadily declined from 15,763 in the 2004 election to 13,909 in 2008 to 7,310 in 2013.
This is the first time Mr Liew and Mr Wee will face each other in a general election in Johor, reported The Star.
Mr Liew's candidacy came as no surprise, according to Free Malaysia Today (FMT) website.
In January, a confident Liew said MCA was "panicky" over DAP's plans to field a candidate in Ayer Hitam.
"All of a sudden, we are bringing the battlefield to his doorstep," he had told FMT.
Malay voters make up 57.57 per cent of Ayer Hitam's electorate, while Chinese voters account for 38.43 per cent and Indians four per cent.
The Ayer Hitam seat, which was traditionally been contested by PAS before, was supposed to be contested by Parti Amanah Negara. But a last-minute swap enabled DAP to contest the seat.
The MCA contested 37 parliamentary seats in the 2013 elections and won only seven. Crucially though, four of the seven seats it secured were in Johor.
The southern state is a stronghold of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the second-biggest component party of the Barisan Nasional. It is also the birthplace of Umno.
PH comprises Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Tun Mahathir Mohamad's pro-Malay Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), the Chinese-centric DAP, and moderate Islamic party Parti Amanah Negara.