By Eileen Ng, Sajahan Waheed and B. Suresh Ram
Now who will be nominated to cabinet posts?
KUALA LUMPUR - Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek won the MCA presidency last night by the smallest of margins - 68 votes - and was handed a mixed team of leaders who supported him and his rivals. Dr Chua won with 901 votes.
Many interpreted the outcome as a signal that the delegates wish to see an end to infighting.
Amid a mood of reconciliation, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, 48, the new No. 2, who polled 1,171 votes, and Dr Chua congratulated each other and pledged to work together to strengthen the party.
Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, a supporter of the new president, polled the highest in the contest for the four vice-presidential slots.
Also in the vice-president lineup are former deputy minister and a former vice-president, Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung and a fresh face, Gan Ping Sieu, the 43-year-old Kluang divisional chief who contested the post for the first time.
It was an absorbing contest right to the end. Chor, who supported the Liow-Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting alliance, and Gan, a backer of Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, finished joint third in the veep race with 1,202 votes to move into the party's top hierarchy for the first time. For Chor, the member of parliament for Alor Star, it was his third attempt at the post.
Former president Ka Ting finished second with 833 votes in his comeback attempt, while incumbent Tee Keat polled 578 votes.
Liow edged fellow cabinet member Datuk Kong Cho Ha, 60, an ally of Dr Chua, by 65 votes.
Their deputy president's battle produced 37 votes classified as "spoilt" with Kong garnering 1,106 votes.
In a nod at reunification, the leading contenders had refrained from making known the cai-dan or menu list and avoided strenuously to term their alliances as "team".
Liow ran with Ka Ting under an understanding they termed "convergence of ideals".
Last night, Ka Ting, 54, said he accepted the defeat. "This is part of the democratic process. I hope the winners will honour whatever they have pledged and work towards consolidating the party."
Ka Ting's older brother, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, the former secretary-general, was voted into the 25-seat central committee.
Tee Keat remained sceptical if the results would resolve problems in the party. "I will continue working as usual because I am still an MP," he said.
The immediate impact of the results will be speculation on "who's who" to be nominated by the party for a cabinet post and appointments as deputy ministers. MCA has four ministers and seven deputy ministers.
Tee Keat said he would leave it to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to decide on his fate as transport minister.
The party elections were forced by the mass resignation of central committee members on March 4.
Dr Chua, 63, had vacated his cabinet post three months before the 2008 general election in sensational fashion following the distribution of a sex video. Subsequently, Ka Ting gave up the MCA presidency after MCA won only 15 out of 40 parliamentary and 31 of the 90 state seats it contested.
In the party elections held in October 2008, Tee Keat, the "Lone Ranger" vice-president and former Youth chief, won the presidency with the backing of Ka Ting and his supporters.
Tee Keat eventually sacked his deputy, Dr Chua, culminating in an extraordinary general meeting last October that "censured" Tee Keat and reinstated Dr Chua as a member but not as deputy president.
Liow is the leader of the group which had been crusading for fresh polls. Last night, Liow declared: "I am a team worker."
Of the 2,377 delegates eligible to vote at the EGM at Wisma MCA here yesterday, 2,318 or 97.52 per cent of the delegates attended, of whom only three delegates did not cast their votes.
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