2016 was a horrible year for DAP. Still, if recent events are anything to go by, 2017 looks set to be even worse for the Chinese chauvinist party
Last year was possibly the worst ever endured by DAP. The chauvinist party’s woes began as early as the first month of that year when the PKR-controlled, Selangor state government owned Darul Ehsan Institute (IDE) published the results of its survey concerning the party’s popularity amongst Malaysians of various races residing in Selangor, which was done between the dates of 13 and 15 Nov 2015 and involved a total of 1,716 respondents in all.
The IDE’s deputy chairperson Professor Mohammad Redzuan Othman announced that among the key findings were that a whopping 72 percent of Selangor voters agreed with the suggestion that DAP is an anti-Malay and anti-Islam party, dealing a serious blow to the party’s efforts to attract Malay Muslim support.
Sarawak state election fallout
DAP’s problems multiplied further with the party’s disasterous showing in the Sarawak state election held in the month of May later that year. The party’s goal of capturing as many as 20 to 22 state seats (as well as hoping its ally PKR would succeed in capturing 6 to 8 state seats) to deny Sarawak BN a two-thirds majority in the state legislative assembly went up in flames.
Not only did the party fail to make inroads among the Dayaks of the state (despite having fielded a majority slate of 16 Dayak candidates, followed by 14 Chinese and 1 Malay Melanau) but also failed to defend its earlier tally of 11 seats captured at the previous state election in 2011.
DAP’s majority was slashed to seven seats while its ally PKR won a pitiful three, thus dashing the party’s hopes of ever becoming a credible alternative government in waiting by the next state election due in 2021.
Jalan Pinhorn bungalow scandal trial set to commence
June 2016 saw the party beset with its first ever mega corruption scandal involving its only chief minister, Lim Guan Eng in Penang. Then charged with the purchase of a bungalow below market value located in Jalan Pinhorn on the island in exchange for illegal kickbacks, 2017 is set to be a momentous year for the Chief Minister for he is expected to face trial in respect of that charge from next March until the end of July.
Lim’s and by extension, DAP’s reputations are on the line and judging by the long list of witnesses expected to be called (more than 60 in all) chances are such would be both eroded further still by revelations yet to be made in respect of this scandal.
DAP-PKR relationship on thin ice
Further to be noted is that since September 2015, the relationship DAP has with its Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition partner PKR hasn’t exactly been good. PKR’s decision to keep PAS – excluded by DAP as a member of the new PH – within its governing coalition in Selangor has kept the chauvinist party on edge.
In Penang, the move by five PKR members of the state legislative assembly to abstain on a motion moved by the BN state opposition regarding ongoing land reclaimation in the state resulted in Lim terminating the services of two of them in Penang state government-linked GLCs in February 2016.
When DAP proposed snap elections in July 2016 as a means of distracting the public from the Jalan Pinhorn scandal beleaguering its chief minister then (as it still is now) PKR’s response was a firm and solid ‘no’.
It is in this context that we should see the recent Jan 4 appointment by Lim of PKR supreme council member Saifuddin Nasution Ismail to fill the newly created Penang government post of ‘Strategic Advisor to the Chief Minister’ i.e. to placate, and if possible, to influence the general tempo within PKR.
Malay Muslim support needed by DAP in Penang
It is said that, quite apart from the attempt to restore relations with its ally, the move is also aimed at shoring up Malay Muslim support for PH in Penang, particularly with the intention of winning all the remaining 10 seats still posessed by BN in the state come the next general election due in 2018. Murmurs also abound of the party wanting to follow the precedent set by PAS in appointing Saifuddin as the one in charge of the Tok Kenali Trust Fund in Kelantan from 2004 to 2007.
But Lim has calculated wrongly in his move to appoint Saifuddin. The political veteran, despite being one of the original founders of PKR, is not highly regarded within his own party.
All the posts helmed by him within PKR so far have been by appointment, and never once has he won any as the result of the party’s many legendary-for-being-bitterly-fought internal contests.
This includes his appointment as chief strategist in May 2007, secretary-general in January 2010, (joint) election director in October 2014 and secretary-general again in November 2016. Both his appointments as the party secretary-general in 2010 and 2016 were attributed to the fact that he is the only one dependable enough to faithfully execute any command issued by the party hierarchy in view of Salehuddin Hashim and Rafizi Ramli’s resignations from the same post.
Saifuddin not well liked by many even in his own party
Saifuddin’s personal non-popularity at the PKR grassroots was even more pronounced when, despite his position as secretary-general of the party back then, he decisively lost a contest beween himself and current Selangor menteri besar Azmin Ali for the post of PKR deputy president in 2014.
Saifuddin’s 10,743 votes paled in comparison with those obtained by his rival Azmin, which was an impressive 22,562 votes. His share of the votes cast was even lower then that of former Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim who was unable to contest after being expelled from the party following the Selangor menteri besar crisis of that year.
Lim’s intention to have his Chinese based party indirectly control the Malay Muslim dominated PKR by the back door via his appointment of Saifuddin is untenable as is any notion that DAP can influence the Penang state PKR also by virtue of this appointment.
PKR in Penang, as is widely known to all, is dominated by hardline Azmin Ali supporters such as Mansor Othman, and is stacked to the brim by them, including but not limited to state deputy PKR youth leader Dr Afif Bahardin. It is difficult to even contemplate Saifuddin having an easy time garnering support within the local state party, no matter how much monetary allocation is provided for him.
No chance of BN wipeout in Penang
Also to be dismissed is any inkling that the appointment will serve PKR well in the goal to have BN thrown out of the state completely by winning over the 10 state seats still not posessed of by PH.
If Saifuddin were any brilliant election strategist, this would have come to the fore in elections fought or directed by him but his track record in this regard shows otherwise.
The Padang Serai parliamentary seat contested by him in the 1999 and 2004 general elections were lost on both occassions, as was his loss in the Kulim-Bandar Baharu parliamentary seat in 2013. His win in the parliamentary seat of Machang in PAS stronghold Kelantan during the 2008 general election was only to be expected in view of the firm backing given to PKR in the state by PAS and the national anti-establishment mood that swept the country at the time.
Even his intended appointment to serve in the menter besar’s office by the PKR-led Selangor state government in July 2013 came to nought due to his rejection by then MB Tan Sri Khalid.
DAP’s impending electoral doom all but sealed
Far from having any positive or desired result, the appointment made by DAP in Penang will only serve to strengthen the view that DAP is but an opportunistic party bent on dividing and controlling others.
The truth is that there are very few moves that can be made to improve the party’s image and popularity especially amongst Malay Muslim voters, particularly in the state of Penang.
Not only is DAP’s present support among Malay Muslims at an all time low, but non-Malay support of the party is expected to nosedive following the corruption trial of its chief minister later this year.
Of a certainty is this: if 2016 was a bad year for DAP, 2017 might just be when the party’s impending electoral doom in the next general election is all but sealed.
Odds are this is what will befall the Chinese chauvinist party, and not even Tun Dr Mahathir’s newly formed PPBM will be able to rescue the party from the terrible fate that awaits.
Dr Kamarul Zaman Yusoff