As widely predicted, Barisan Nasional announced today that MCA vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun will take on opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the Kajang by-election next month.
BN's choice of candidate was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin ahead of the Umno supreme council meeting today.
The by-election slated for March 23 was triggered by the resignation of the Pakatan Rakyat's state assemblyperson Lee Chin Cheh of PKR.
PKR admitted that Lee's resignation and the by-election was a carefully laid-out plan, called the "Kajang move" by its architects, for the party's de facto leader Anwar to enter the Selangor government.
Both PKR and Anwar have strongly indicated that it was to allow him to take over as menteri besar from the popular Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.
In the last general election, Lee garnered 19,571 votes, to win by a 6,824 votes. BN’s Lee Ban Seng obtained 12,747 votes while Mohamad Ismail of Berjasa got 1,014 votes.
For now, it appears to be a three-cornered fight for the seat, with former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim having announced last week his intention to contest.
Zaid said that he will be contesting in Kajang to stop Anwar's “Kajang move” and retain Khalid as menteri besar.
The Election Commission has set March 11 for nominations.
This by-election is the third since the May general election.
Chew, a former deputy minister, is making a comeback after a three-year hiatus from politics and the public eye.
In an interview with The Malaysian Insider recently, Chew played down her chances in the by-election when it was told to her that she was the front runner as candidate for the Kajang state seat.
"I did not aim for it nor did I lobby for it," the 50-year-old Chew told The Malaysian Insider.
"Any party member, if the party needs him or her, whether or not they can win, they need to take it up. I mean, it is expected of you."
It was important, she said, for MCA to become part of the Selangor opposition team.
Currently, MCA has no seats in the state.
Equally important to Chew – who won a vice-presidency post in MCA at the party polls last December – is the transformation of the Chinese party.
The Penang-born Chew revealed that she was roped back into the party by current president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai last year after former president Dr Chua Soi Lek announced that he would not run for the presidency.
"But I was hesitant. I mean, in the three years I was gone, no one criticised me, no one bothered to look at me and I just did whatever I wanted," she had said, referring to her hiatus in politics.
The daughter of Hainanese chicken rice sellers, Chew earned her Master's degree in Chinese studies from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman during her "break", and also set up the university's first post-graduate society.
"I also published my first book, which is in Mandarin, based on interviews I did with 10 of Malaysian women social activists," the former China Press reporter said.
"It covered issues such as women's rights, human rights and gender equality."
She also began writing a fortnightly column on women's issues and empowerment in Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily, which she continues to do.
"When I have something to say and no other channel, I just write.
"After my resignation, I emailed one of my writings to the newspaper and the editor called me and asked 'Are you that Chew Mei Fun?'," she said, adding that she did some freelance work in public relations to support herself.
Chew began her career in politics in 1995 after joining then Wanita chief Datuk Teng Gaik Kwan as Teng's publicist. She went on to contest in the 1999 general election and won the Petaling Jaya Utara parliamentary seat.
She held on to the seat until she was beaten by DAP's Tony Pua in the 2008 general election. – February 21, 2014.