Same ol’ DAP faces promise ‘stability’ to face GE14, observers suggest

(From left) DAP leaders Lim Guan Eng, Tan Kok Wai and Lim Kit Siang cast their votes during the party’s special congress in Shah Alam November 12, 2017. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
(From left) DAP leaders Lim Guan Eng, Tan Kok Wai and Lim Kit Siang cast their votes during the party’s special congress in Shah Alam November 12, 2017. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — DAP’s current line-up of familiar faces after its central executive committee (CEC) re-election on Sunday was not unexpected, several political analysts have commented.

According to them, party members may have chosen ethnic Chinese leaders to dominate the committee to signal their need for a stable and united front to face the 14th general elections (GE14).

“Those elected are mostly supporters of Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng. During this time they want to show their unity and they are used to the same line-up and direction, especially with the looming general elections.

“From the whole picture you can see that this is an election theme to show the people that the party stands together,” current affairs commentator Datuk Cheah See Kian told Malay Mail Online.

DAP’s parliamentary leader Kit Siang won the most votes, while his son and party secretary-general Guan Eng was placed third.

Cheah suggested that delegates and grassroots were more wary against new additions to the party’s leadership, especially after vice-chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim who joined in 2008 had turned into one of the party and Opposition’s biggest critics since leaving in 2012.

Independent pollster Merdeka Center director Ibrahim Suffian concurred, predicting that any changes to DAP’s top line-up to reflect more from the non-Chinese demographic would likely occur only after GE14.

“I think people in the party just wanted to get this thing done in order to overcome, especially since they were forced into it by the Registrar of Societies (RoS). So the delegates and party members decided not to change anything much and keep everything the same.

“People might make broad judgements based on the party’s line-up and I guess they don’t want a major hiccup in the party’s senior leadership leading to the election,” said Ibrahim.

The re-election on Sunday was a result of the RoS’ refusal to recognise the validity of the party’s 2012 CEC’s line-up, which was marred by a tabulation error, and its subsequent re-election in 2013.

The 20 elected members of the CEC line-up remained largely unchanged compared to the 2013 party CEC elections, except for two new additions — Batu Gajah MP V. Sivakumar and former Selangor state executive councillor Ronnie Liu.

‘Vicious cycle’ of fear and mistrust keeping Malays away

However, political analyst Oh Ei Sun said due to its well-known “Malaysia for Malaysians” stand in the past, DAP naturally attracts non-Malays gunning for equal rights, which runs contrast to most Malays who wish to protect Bumiputera rights and special Malay privileges.

This, in turn, caused a “vicious cycle” within the party, said the senior adjunct fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University Singapore.

“It’s a vicious cycle: non-Malays want equality for all Malaysian citizens, and that sentiment finds its political embodiment in DAP. Most Malays don’t agree with this sentiment, so they obviously don’t join DAP.

“So DAP membership becomes predominantly Chinese and some Indians. So the DAP leaders elected are of course also predominantly such. And that in turn scares away many Malays from DAP,” Oh said.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Malaysian and International Studies Professor Faisal Hazis agreed that DAP’s past in challenging ‘Ketuanan Melayu’, or Malay supremacy, with their “Malaysia for Malaysians” slogan has continued to haunt them.

“‘Malaysia for Malaysians’ was used to challenge the Malay political dominance, so it was a slogan trying to challenge the so-called ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ in the past, so people see it as contesting Malay rights and interests.

“That’s how it shaped the image of the party among the Malays,” said Faisal, adding that the party has made a lot of effort to shed that image by recruiting Malay members, such as Zairil Khir Johari who was elected the party’s assistant national publicity secretary.

In the run-up to the re-election, Zairil had told Malay Mail Online that while the party wishes to see more Malay faces in its CEC, it cannot do so during this poll since it is tied to the directive of RoS that ordered the repeat.

“I think the dynamics of this special congress will be very different from a regular one due to the fact that we are using 2012 delegates and 2012 candidates.

“Which means most of the newer and high profile Malay members that we are familiar with will neither be contesting nor voting. Many joined after 2013,” the Bukit Bendera MP said.

National laureate Datuk A. Samad Said only joined the party in 2015, together with constitutional expert Dr Abdul Aziz Bari that year.

Meanwhile, former Air Force major Zaidi Ahmad crossed over from Parti Amanah Negara last year, and former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim had joined earlier this year.

In 2015, activist Young Syefura Othman and DAP portal Roketkini coordinator Edry Faizal Eddy Yusof were appointed to the Selangor DAP committee with Abdul Aziz, after none of the Malay candidates who contested won.

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