KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — MCA may be banking on a bad economy to snatch some Chinese support away from DAP, analysts believe.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia associate professor Kartini Aboo Talib Khalid said Chinese votes were not static despite DAP currently having almost absolute support from the community.
“Now that Pakatan Harapan (PH) is the ruling coalition, nothing is what they (grassroots) have expected, with bureaucracy and restrictions affecting everyone, even Chinese businessmen.
“They are now making comparisons and some have come to the realisation that MCA was a better choice,” she told Malay Mail.
Asked about MCA’s chances after it chose to remain part of Barisan Nasional (BN), with partner Umno allying with PAS, Kartini claimed that most Chinese voters were mature enough to view the racial and religious narrative pushed by Umno-PAS as harmless.
“Such narratives are played every time when an election is near, but none of this narrative has deprived the Chinese of their life, liberty and property.
“However, it remains to be seen if MCA will be able to convince voters if the coalition and its Malay-centric narratives will not erode what the community currently enjoyed,” she said.
Senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun suggested that MCA was, at best, playing an opportunistic time game by staying in BN and hedging that the new Umno-PAS alliance would return BN to power in the next general election.
“On the other hand, it is also banking on Chinese dissatisfaction over [the lack of a] clear economic direction by the new government which hopefully will fester in time for the next GE in favour of MCA,” he said.
The DAP performed its best in the 14th general election by winning 42 Parliament seats, while MCA was almost wiped out as it won just a single federal seat.
Chinese voters’ almost complete rejection of MCA, an exclusive Chinese party, last year marked a total contrast from the time the community saved BN’s two-thirds parliamentary majority in the 1999 general election, when Malays turned against Umno following Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking from the Mahathir government.
Almost a year after the historic 2018 election, however, some Chinese have started expressing discontent with a slow economy and rising living costs, concerns which they insist are real and not mere Opposition propaganda.
Kuala Lumpur Hawkers and Petty Traders Association (KLHPTA) chairman Datuk Ang Say Tee said the economy was worse than before the 14th general election, following the reintroduction of the Sales and Services Tax (SST).
“It is not me or MCA claiming the economy is bad. Everyone... the whole country said the same thing.
“The economy is so bad that hawkers are unable to conduct business because the cost of everything has gone up and they cannot raise their prices either,” he told Malay Mail.
Ang said he was bombarded with “cries for help” from traders, but said he could not achieve much if the government refused to listen to their pleas.
“I hope the government or the prime minister can come up with some sort of package to stimulate the economy because they are the “train conductor” that drives the country’s economy ahead,” he said.
Perak Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) chairman Datuk Gan Tack Kong, however, said the economy, particularly in the manufacturing sector, was at a satisfactory level at this moment, despite what was claimed.
“We cannot just look at the political side of things, but also the administrative side of the federal and state governments in the implementation of policies by giving them time to look into things,” he told Malay Mail.
Senator Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, who is MCA vice-president, said MCA would continue to fight and regain minority rights under the Federal Constitution as the party understood Chinese political aspirations.
“Even at the weakest, MCA does not run away from its responsibility of speaking for the Chinese and minorities unlike DAP who subsequently ‘washed their hands off’ by claiming it was not a ‘Chinese party’ after gaining power.
“In time, upon the people’s realisation, they will be disappointed with DAP’s political reality of receiving near absolute support but were denied the right to speak for the Chinese in an increasing communal environment,” he told Malay Mail.