Is grassroots uprising against ‘elite’ DAP leaders cause of shock poll results?

Damansara MP Tony Pua lost the Selangor DAP chairmanship to Puchong MP and Communications and Multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo. — Picture by Razak Ghazali
Damansara MP Tony Pua lost the Selangor DAP chairmanship to Puchong MP and Communications and Multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo. — Picture by Razak Ghazali

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 ― The downfall of some of DAP’s biggest names in the party’s state elections may be a result of a grassroots uprising against unilateral decisions made by its top leaders.

Citing Tony Pua’s failure to win in the Selangor DAP party election, insiders believe that the results are indicative of a larger issue- one of leaders making decisions that go against the wishes of the grassroots.

As a result, these leaders are being rejected by majority of the DAP’s ordinary members.

“It’s not about who’s more Chinese. It’s a sign of protest from the grassroot after all the years. All around the country, the pattern is similar,” said a DAP party source.

He said that the leaders, or “elite” made decisions against the grassroots, citing candidate selection and positions among others. He also said that the pattern was not just in Selangor and DAP but across the country.

“The people are not happy with the decisions made by the leaders ― things like letting go of seats to our Pakatan allies which leaders felt they could not deliver. Things like candidate selection. I guess they were not happy with the decisions by the leadership even though it was in the interests of the party.

“They wanted to be heard,” said the MP who declined to be named.

His logic is similar to that of Segambut MP and DAP assistant national publicity secretary Hannah Yeoh who yesterday said Pua paid the price of going against the popular opinion and opting to field seven new candidates out of 15 seats.

“I believe this is partly caused by the selection of DAP Selangor candidates in the last general elections. 7 out of 15 seats had fresh faces being chosen.

“That’s something Tony has to pay the price for now — the price for taking risk in people,” she had said.

University Sains Malaysia’s Sivamurugan Pandian said that DAP grassroots are emerging and leaders at the top needed to find vehicles to interact via programs and activities which people like Pua may have failed to do.

“He is one of the architect or main players of DAPs performance at national level and focusing extensively at national issues may also have caused him the loss. It’s still too early to say whether any factions including Lim Guan Eng are losing power,” he said.

“Although DAP has become mainstream party or ruling party, the grassroots leaders want their leaders to infuse party struggle in themselves and not to neglect their mindset including in making major decision for the party such as selection of candidate, party activities etc,” he added.

Damansara MP Pua lost the Selangor DAP chairmanship to Puchong MP and Communications and Multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo. Although Pua had said he was not vying for the top post, he had wanted to maintain a post in the top 15 committee.

Last month, Penang DAP’s two state vice chairmen P Ramasamy and Zairil Khir Johari failed to defend their posts for the 2018-2020 term.

State DAP chairman Chow Kon Yeow kept the seat he has held since 1999 as expected but the defeat of the other two came as a surprise to many. Other shock exits include A. Thansekharan, Sungai Pinang assemblyman Lim Siew Khim and Goh Choon Kiong.

Two Members of Parliament ― Kasthuri Patto (Batu Kawan) and RSN Rayer (Jelutong) ― also failed to make it into the top 15

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia analyst Kartini Aboo Tali said that despite the results, there did not appear to be any race-based voting patterns or factions so far, and attributed the voting to the members’ belief in the candidates.

“Looking at the names in the top 15 of Selangor, I think members had chosen those who were diligent and committed, and energetic for the party.

“One of the reason Pua was booted out was because of his lethargic expression towards holding a position,” she said.

One whether voting could be influenced by “pro-Chinese” voters, she said : “I don’t see a pattern of race-based factions because DAP has always positioned itself as a multi-racial party ― look at Hannah Yeoh and Gobind Singh Deo, and are open to all, but it is tougher for a Malay to survive unless they are strong and can appeal to its Chinese supporters.”

“If you view members within DAP, there are all races there, but yes, it may still be dominated by Chinese, and if there is minority there, the sentiment of being marginalised is always there. And when there is a choice of who to vote for, the vote would go to the person who has the most values in common. Being the same race is advantage ― this is how I see it,” she said.

Analysts like Lim Teck Ghee, the director of Centre for Policy Initiatives, said that the results  indicate that there is a “healthy” rivalry among various groupings within the DAP.

“The healthy rivalry is not characterised by the public mud slinging and negative sentiments displayed in the recent PKR party election,” he said.

But he said that it was puzzling why members would reject Pua, given his track record and popularity as a leader.

“It is not clear why the grassroot DAP members are not happy or lack confidence in him unless he has failed to pay his dues in terms of visibility at the grassroots,” he said.

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