Recently, Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz has (again) taken news headlines by storm when he insulted Malaysia’s richest tycoon: Robert Kuok. His remark came in response to allegations by blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, and not only did it prompt Robert Kuok to consider legal action against Raja Petra, but it also incurred the wrath of MCA.
Since then, MCA has repeatedly called for Nazri to apologise for his comments, and some members even staged a brief demonstration on the 69th anniversary of MCA. Nazri refused to apologise, and so the feud grew into a week long drama.
“I will not (apologise). My statement was based on an allegation made by Raja Petra which had not been denied (by Kuok),” – Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, quoted from Free Malaysia Today
With the General Elections being closer than ever, one would think that politicians would be more careful about the fights they pick. But Nazri showed no sign of relenting, and has even claimed that the Padang Rengas MCA (his constituency) is “no friend of his” because they’ve been boycotting him since the 2013 elections.
But as The Malaysian Insight recently brought to light, Nazri’s confidence might stem from an unlikely group of Chinese supporters he has over to his house every weekend.
Meet the Nazri’s club for Chinese Aunties: Padang Rengas Aunties Club
A brainchild of Minister Nazri, the Padang Rengas Aunties Club is a social club that was formally set up around 3 years ago, when he saw that aunties were usually left out of state programmes. Though it’s named “Aunties Club”, there’s actually no gender restrictions to joining. Members of the club not only go on free local trips together, they would also organise social welfare activities like gotong-royong and fundraisers for the needy in Padang Rengas Chinese new villages.
The relationship of Nazri and the Aunties Club seem pretty tight, as he even joked about how they travel to his house.
“When I’m here at weekends, I told them they could come and relax at my house. They would come like a group of gangsters in their motorcycles,” – Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz joked at an event, quoted from The Malaysian Insight
The group also engages in exchange programmes with groups from other states, promoting inter-state travel with Bentong in one instance. The group seems to be so successful and famous that other BN component parties are seeking their help to set up similar clubs in Taiping and Ipoh.
So it might be no surprised that members of the Padang Rengas Aunties Club interviewed by The Malaysian Insight don’t seem to mind too much about Nazri’s on-going tension with MCA.
“We must appreciate such a minister. He has no airs. We’ll never have another good minister like him,” – Teng Kok Weng, Padang Rengas Aunties Club adviser, told The Malaysian Insight
But outside of the Aunties Club, Chinese voters aren’t that impressed
Aside from the 600 something members of the Aunties Club, the sentiment being reflected seems to be quite the opposite. Almost a dozen villagers interviewed by The Malaysian Insight have expressed their disappointment over Nazri never visiting their village, when even Anwar Ibrahim and Tun Mahathir has dropped by before.
MCA deputy chief Fon Kwi Lan actually worries if good relations with the Aunties club will actually translate into votes for BN, because the club isn’t actually a political body technically, and members could be supporters of any political party. Padang Rengas PKR chief Alias Ibrahim believes that support for Nazri is weakening due to rising living costs and low rubber prices, as even once hardcore BN voters are starting to feel less confident with the party.
“You only need 50% of votes, plus 1”
Minister Nazri’s claims that the MCA in his constituent has been boycotting him in the polls since the 13th Genereal Election. At the time, the minister was actually also engaged in a feud with former MCA leader Chua Soi Lek pre-election season as well.
However, Padang Rengas MCA deputy chief Fon Kwi Lan denied Nazri’s claims, and attributed the poor Chinese support to the larger trend of that election.
“We canvassed for Nazri in 2013 but the mood, especially among young voters, was to change the government. What could we do?” – Fon Kwi Lan told The Malaysian Insight
Padang Rengas has a registered voting population of around 30,000 people. Malay voters make up around 75%, while Chinese and Indian voters make up 15% and 10% respectively. Even with the large portion of Malay voters, Nazri won the constituency by a majority of only 2,230 votes.
But through the success and support of the Aunties Club, Nazri is confident that he could win back the Chinese votes, and he wouldn’t need to depend on the support of Padang Rengas MCA. As his sifu, Tun Mahathir once told him, winning an election only requires 50% of the votes, plus 1.
“I don’t want to waste my time trying to get everybody to support me. I get 50% plus one that’s good enough, it will give me another 5 years. It’s practical.” – Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz told The Malaysian Insight
Whatever the outcome may be, Minister Nazri knows that he’s in for a fight
Whether or not he would win back the Chinese voters, Minister Nazri understands the challenges he will be facing in his constituency in the coming election. According to him, his main concern with the Chinese voters is actually the influence pro-opposition, out-stationed young voters have on their elders.
On top of that, not only does he have to keep an eye on PKR influence, he also has to worry about the further splitting of Malay votes from a 3 cornered fight posed by PAS.
“The Malay votes are divided in 3 ways. If for example PKR, PAS and UMNO were to fight in Padang Rengas here, it would be tough for BN.” – Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz, quoted from Sinar Harian
But despite all the difficulties and the controversial statements the minister has made. He remains to be seen a strong contender for Padang Rengas. He’s actually held the seat for 3 terms, and his GE13 majority (2,230) was actually higher than in GE12 (1,749). DAP’s M. Kulasegaran confessed the fact, and credits it to him being “a man who is always on the ground“.
“The opposition can look at Padang Rengas, but it’s not easy to take away the seat from him.” – M Kulasegaran, Ipoh Barat MP told Free Malaysia Today