ALP split opens election race

Zahra Haydar Big is another ALP member vying for Yarraman Ward. 386246_04 Picture: GARY SISSONS

by Cam Lucadou-Wells

A split among ALP candidates may have “unpredictable” consequences at the upcoming Yarraman Ward byelection.

The 8 March poll fills a vacancy at Greater Dandenong Council, replacing ex-mayor Eden Foster who was recently elected as a Labor MP in Mulgrave.

Out of a field of 13 candidates, up to five Labor members are in the race. Two former ALP members are running as independents.

Law student and former electorate officer Phillip Danh – who helped on Foster’s campaign – is among those favoured to take the seat.

However, other ALP members Thay-Horn Yim, Sam Afra and Zahra Haydar Big say they are running to win against Danh.

Also in the contest are ex-ALP independents Ahmed Shukri and Peter Brown, Greens candidate Robert Lim, Victorian Socialist Tevyn Gov as well as unendorsed Liberal Will Billings.

In his first council tilt in 2020, he came within 90 votes of deposing Cr Tim Dark in Keysborough Ward.

“Hopefully we can pull it off this time round,” says Danh – who says the council needs a young councillor with fresh ideas.

“We’ll give it our best shot. I’m taking nothing for granted – it’s up to the voters.”

Party rules to preference other ALP members suggest that the winner will come from the Labor camp.

But as a result of the wide field, Danh says the result is “unpredictable”.

Afra, a former Casey councillor in 1997-2000 and “community advocate” for 30 years, says he has more experience than Danh but “little chance of winning”.

He believes there’s a “hidden agenda” to install Danh into the seat through preference deals among ALP candidates.

“I am a member of the Labor party for 31 years – before Phillip Danh was born.”

Another ALP member Yim says he’s running independent of factions or party support.

“I’m a genuine candidate, taking up a challenge to go through this process”.

“It’s not about party politics, it’s about the community.”

A Council Watch Victoria survey released last week showed respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of independent candidates rather than political partisans.

However, political party allegiance – particularly the ALP – dominate in Greater Dandenong’s composition.

Brown, a former Greater Dandenong councillor and mayor, says the split between Labor candidates could open the race for independents or even Green candidate Lim.

“You could take a group of 11 of these candidates and replace the existing councillors – and get a good council out of it.

“When you look at the experience, the education and the diversity, that candidates list has got the lot.”