Incumbent Datuk Seri Panglima Gan Sau Wah had openly declared he is ready for "war" and needs a second term for "unfinished business."
Gan, an old guard but dubbed as a strongman from the East Coast having served the Semporna Chinese Chamber of Commerce for more than 40 years would be challenged by "youthful and fresh-faced" Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKCCCI), President Datuk Michael Lui Yen Seng, who is expected to rely much on the chambers in the West Coast.
There are 20 chambers of commerce, including Labuan, since it is a long-time affiliate of the SUCCC. The chief delegate of each chamber would cast the vote.
In the case of Labuan it is expected to be LCCC President Datuk Wong Kii Yii.
Though some are calling the elections a battle between East and West Coasts, others believe East or West candidates cannot be certain of automatic support from the chambers in their zone. Insiders say that there were fence-sitters who may swung the outcome for the benefit of either contestant.
Some chamber chiefs are taking the opportunity to bargain positions as office-bearers in return for support. So the question here is not what the winning candidate could do for SUCCC but also for the local chamber.
Though on the surface both the candidates appear to be evenly matched and friendly there were signs that a split was developing between on campaign issues.
When Gan exposed allegations of a rip-off in the RM4.8million land deal by previous officials, KKCCI led by Michael reacted immediately by questioning Gan why this was not highlighted by him before when he was in the chambers for 46 years. KCCCI suggested a police report be made over the allegations while Gan had suggested a task force to investigate the issue. This is the first known open confrontation against Gan by KCCCI.
Gan decided to go for a second term as SUCCC chief had forseen the "hurdles" he would face and made an early start to lobby for support and build up his profile.
Coincidentally or not, this year SUCCC successfully held the AGM of the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Malaysia (ACCCIM) and won praise from many including Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.
He also spoke out strongly against the cabotage policy and how it was affecting Sabah merchants. He also presented long service gold medal for leaders (past and present) from Beaufort, Tuaran, Labuan, Kota Marudu, Penampang most in the West Coast and to Lahad Datu.
The incumbent over recent months had also made two visits to Labuan to gave a better relationship with the Labuan chamber. He brought a delegations from Semporna chamber on a courtesy call and later he came to supervise the swearing-in ceremony of the officials of Labuan Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Some said such missions were to seek support.
Gan became the chairman of SUCCC in 2012 when he defeated late Datuk Sari Nuar Tan in a closely-contest battle. Votes had to be recounted more than twice since both the candidates were dead-locked with the same number. However, Sari Tan withdrew before the third count making way to Gan to succeed him.
Will this election be a repeat of 2012?
Michael has promised to reform and transform and have SUCCC revitalised into a dynamic and youth front.
He is expected to get support from chambers which feel that the SUCCC chief should come from Kota Kinabalu which is the financial and administration capital of Sabah.
But at the same time, Gan is not without "bullet" he is 80 years of age and seeking his last term being an old guard, he is better known all the 22 chambers.
Whoever wins, one thing is clear the SUCCC would soon be even more cash-rich when the 16-storey Sabah Tiong Hua building on 2.7 acres site in Karamunsing is completed. After lying idle for 24 years the project is becoming a reality at last.
When completed the new building would be part-owned by SUCCC and Sabah United Chinese Community Association.
The new SUCCC asset would pump an additional RM1 million annually to SUCCC coffers.