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Gerakan at crossroads, weighs being a ‘third force’

KUALA LUMPUR: The closing of the 42nd Gerakan national delegates conference today saw a significant discussion on the party becoming a third force in Malaysian politics.

Gerakan has had two disastrous election outings, losing its fortress in Penang and its political credibility in the process.

In his farewell speech earlier today, outgoing Gerakan vice-president Chia Kwang Chye weighed in delegates views on the party becoming a third force.

It was one of five options which the party needed to seriously ponder on to stay relevant.

Chia said Gerakan is standing at a political crossroad.

“One of the options is to withdraw from BN but not to join Pakatan (Rakyat). This means we form the third force.

“To do this we must strengthen our party, so that the voter will see us despite we not being in BN or Pakatan.

“But this is best complemented with a proportionate representation voting system.

“So we don’t need to worry that we lose in all seats we contest, as long as we secure enough votes nationally, we can get seats (in the Parliament),” he said.

Chia , who is the former Bukit Bendera MP, said the other options included staying with BN, joining Pakatan, dissolving Gerakan or sticking to its core principles and care less about political affiliation.

“But we need be mindful. If we leave BN, Pakatan does not necessarily want us. And normally those which leave BN fall into decline.

“Dissolving the party means we close shop, we go to death.

“But of course I am only saying this for fun, it should not be an option at all,” he added.

He said by choosing to stick to its founding principles, Gerakan must strive for a fair and equitable society and serve the people best.

“If we can achieve that, we will be a respectable party no matter which coalition we are in, and other parties will also respect us,” he said.

Not easy to be a third force

Yesterday, Selangor delegate Lee Hui Seng also urged Gerakan leaders to opt to become a  “third force’ in local politics.

He said this way Gerakan will have the freedom to contest as many seats as it wants and will possess a real bargaining power once it wins the seat.

“In the event there is a hung parliament, both BN and Pakatan would be forced to make a deal with Gerakan,” he said.

He said Gerakan owns various assets such as the Menara PGRM and as such was self sustaining.

Responding to Lee, Gerakan acting president Chang Ko Youn said forming a third force was theoretically possible but hard to implement in the current first-past-the-post system.

“Look at the Liberal Democratic Party (Lib Dem) in Britain. It took them more than 100 years to make some achievement,” he said, referring to the party which finally became a member of the governing coalition in 2010, and its leader Nick Clegg was appointed as deputy prime minister.

Chang is of the view that Gerakan should stay in BN because Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has proven himself to be a moderate and the coalition is in the midst of a transformation process.

“BN just formed a political lab two months ago. It is undergoing a process of self-criticism and self improvement.

“This is to change our approach on how the coalition should be run,” he said.

Its a known fact that Gerakan has a strained relationship with other BN component parties.

But this is believed to be because Gerakan does not subscribe to the race-based politics and the party’s views on certain issues were often ignored by coalition dominated by Umno.

Mah: Stick with BN

Meanwhile, Gerakan’s newly elected president Mah Siew Keong told reporters that the call to quit BN was merely an opinion expressed by certain delegates and not a reflection of the party’s stand.

He said although there were times when Gerakan had dissenting views on government policies, it is still “part of the big family” and  wants to be with BN.

“As far as I am personally concerned, I still believe in Najib, his policies and leadership. But nothing is carved in stone.

“Right now we are still playing a role in BN,” he said.

Asked why he favoured staying put in BN, despite the fact that he had in 2008 called for an extraordinary general meeting to discuss Gerakan’s withdrawal from the coalition BN, Mah said: “One must constantly review ones decision.

“As it is survival is with those who keep on changing.

“We feel that BN is still a better choice, Najib is a better choice than Anwar,” he said.

Source: http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2013/10/27/gerakan-at-crossroads-weighs-being-a-%e2%80%98third-force%e2%80%99/