Malaysia's ethnic Chinese are facing a tough electoral choice between the party of a prime minister they respect and the man whose selfless serving of their community is the stuff of local legend. The attention of some four million Chinese voters is riveted on the election battle in a laid-back town in northern Malaysia, where Lim Kit Siang, a 69-year-old veteran of opposition politics, is mounting his final challenge for a parliamentary seat. The majority of Chinese voters favour the party of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who has promised business freedom and corruption-free government. Mr Lim, the founding chairman of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), has made an emotional appeal to the 76,000 mostly Chinese voters of the Ipoh Timur parliamentary constituency. 'I have given 40 years of my life fighting for your democratic rights ... send me to parliament again,' Mr Lim urged voters yesterday. After dominating opposition politics for four decades, the DAP was sidelined when Chinese voters backed the government following the unprecedented Malay-Chinese rapprochement achieved by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. Mr Lim, a member of parliament since 1969, and many DAP leaders were defeated in the 1999 election, the same year the Parti Islam se-Malaysia replaced the DAP as the opposition in parliament. Many DAP leaders are fighting tough battles to regain their past glory, but analysts say only Mr Lim has any chance of winning. Mr Lim, who was twice jailed without trial for championing democracy, hopes to buck the trend by riding on a wave of sympathy for him and his family. His son, Lim Guan Eng, was also jailed for defending human rights and is barred from standing. Mr Lim's appeals to voters to remember the DAP's sacrifices have struck a strong vein of sympathy among Chinese voters. 'I am in a dilemma,' said accountant Allen Yap, 37. 'I have to decide between a prime minister I like or stand by a man whose sacrifice for the Chinese community is legendary. I can't decide.' Mr Lim's opponent is incumbent businessman Thong Fah Chong, 45, of the Malaysian Chinese Association, or MCA, the biggest partner in the ruling 14-party National Front government. Mr Lim is the MCA's traditional enemy and the party has trooped out former MCA presidents and ministers to shore up the anti-Lim campaign. Mr Abdullah also visited Ipoh Timur twice to campaign for the MCA. Even the retired Dr Mahathir, who fought Mr Lim in parliament for three decades, was sent to Ipoh Timur.