Sunday, October 11, 2009

From King-Makers to King-Takers: The Chaos Theory of the MCA

The Malaysian Insider was quick to call the situation in the MCA as being "chaos" while the MCA-owned Star was not surprisingly more cautious, calling the situation that of "uncertainty". One thing is certain though, that is that there is a strange thread of logic in any bit of chaos.

To see how this works we need to recap the election results. From the Star:

The resolutions

1) Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek That the members of the general assembly have no confidence in the leadership of Ong
ADOPT: 1155 REJECT: 1141 SPOILT: 8

2) That the presidential council’s decision on Aug 26 in accepting the recommendation of the disciplinary board and the subsequent decision of the central committee (if any) to expel or suspend Dr Chua is annulled
ADOPT: 1204 REJECT: 1095 SPOILT: 5

3) That Dr Chua be rightfully restored as MCA deputy president
ADOPT: 1110 REJECT: 1184 SPOILT: 10

In summing up the results, the Malaysian Insider said that:

"In the process, MCA’s delegates rejected the leadership of both Datuk Seri Ong and deputy president Chua Soi Lek.

With both the No. 1 and No. 2 men sidelined, the MCA will have no figure of authority in charge for the first time in its 60-year history, and the results pleased nobody."

Well, that's not entirely accurate - while it certainly is true that neither the Ong Tee Keat and Chua Soi Lek camps were given a victory, a particularly small number of central delegates who snubbed both had their way. And when other elections may have their king-makers, here we have instead king-takers.

Perhaps the EGM showed a kind of democracy that few other elections, whether in Malaysia or abroad have - the kind that not only allows people to support a candidate, but to vote against a candidate without having to support his opponent.

So how indeed do the numbers play out? It is hard to say for sure the voters' intentions, but here are two ways one can look at it.

1. Obviously each camp has its core supporters. Let's take Chua Soi Lek - with 1155 people voting against his nemesis, 1204 to annul the disciplinary action against him, and 1110 to reinstate him as deputy president.


  • there were 1110 delegates who voted for him on all counts - core supporters
  • 45 delegates who did not care to support him at all but did not think Ong Tee Keat acted well either
  • 94 delegates who thought the disciplinary action against him was too much but who did not support him as deputy president. Out of these, 49 candidates chided Ong Tee Keat for his overbearing actions, but didn't think it enough to kick him out.
2. On the other hand, Ong Tee Keat had 1141 supporting his continuation as president, 1095 supporting his actions against his deputy, and 1184 against his archrival.

  • 1095 delegates supported him fully, supporting him on all counts, including his actions against Chua Soi Lek
  • 46 continued to support his presidency, though they used the occasion to overturn the particular actions against his deputy
  • 89 delegates voted against Chua Soi Lek - but also did not support Ong Tee Keat.
So, we have between 45 to 89 delegates out of over two thousand whose double punch ruled the day... and who have proven why my lack of ability to make the numbers tally is a reminder that I would never have done well as an accountant.

At the end of the day, however, it is perhaps not these numbers but a variation of the old Malay adage that describes it best: gajah sama gajah berjuang, pelanduk tembak dari tengah-tengah.

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