MCA is confident of defending its traditional stronghold of Ayer Hitam despite an expected strong challenge by the DAP, which is adopting the "state chief vs state chief" strategy. According to a report in China Press today, an MCA source said the party's assessment showed that deputy president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong, who is also the state chief, will scrape through and the party may even wrest back Yong Peng, a state seat under Ayer Hitam, although the majority vote for Wee was reduced to 7,310 in the 13th general election, from more than 10,000 in the past. This, the source pointed out, is because the party is upbeat about garnering 25-30% of the Chinese votes given its earlier effort to reconnect with inactive party members and touch base with the electorate. The source opined that DAP's move to bank on former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's influence to contest a mixed seat with Malays as the majority will be a double-edged sword, as the Malay voters are likely to vote for the MCA out of fear that DAP may become too strong. In terms of image and rendering service, Wee has the edge over his would-be challenger, Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong, said the source, alleging that the voters in Kluang are not happy with Liew for his lack of service in his constituency. The report said the fight for Ayer Hitam is not just a battle between MCA and DAP, the significance of it is whether DAP can make a breakthrough and win in a mixed constituency with Malays making up the majority of the electorate. Political analyst Phoon Wing Keong told the daily that with just four parliamentary and two state seats left in its last bastion Johor after the last polls, MCA cannot afford to bungle again this time around. He said it cannot be denied that MCA has lost Chinese votes and the impact on the party will be tremendous should it lose to DAP in constituencies where it won in the last election on the back of Malay support. He believes DAP will take full advantage of Mahathir's influence to try to convince the Malays to accept the party's candidate.