By Matthias Chang – Future Fastforward
This analysis will come as a surprise to many political pundits. It is only a surprise because many have forgotten DAP’s past ambitions or rather lack of ambition for political power.
The leaders of PAS and DAP did not aspire to seize Federal political power all these years because they knew well that they don’t have the resources, specifically human resources (talent to lead and govern at the Federal level).Additionally, they were bounded by an exclusive political agenda.
The first genuine attempt on the part of the Opposition to take on the Barisan Nasional was when Semangat 46 led by Tengku Razaleigh forged a temporary / loose coalition. Semangat 46 was the power-train that drove this agenda, but at all material times both PAS and DAP did not share the enthusiasm and the confidence of Tengku Razaleigh but went for the ride merely to improve their respective political standing / results in elections.
Even in 2008, only Anwar and PKR had the ambition to seize political power from BN. As for PAS and DAP they had more modest goals – once again to improve their political standings in the said General Election. They were unprepared and were indeed surprised that they were able to seize five state governments and reduce the two-third majority of the Barisan Nasional government. Of course, after the results, the Opposition claimed credit for their so-called victory. There is no need for me to go into the whys and wherefores for the debacle suffered by the Barisan Nasional – it is water under the bridge.
What concerns me are the present political trends and the political strategies of the component parties of the Opposition coalition, specifically DAP.
There is much hype that the next government following the 13th General Election would be a Pakatan Rakyat government and the emotions expressed on the ground seem to suggest such a possibility.
Reality or passing fancy?
If be truth be told, let me say it here and now. Pakatan Rakyat will not form the next Federal Government or any Federal Government in the future.
To me, the weakest link in the Opposition coalition is DAP and not PKR as touted by many political pundits.
As stated earlier, DAP never had any ambition to be part of any Federal Government. It is essentially a Chinese political party with a sprinkling of a handful of other races. This is true even today.
After 1969 when Party Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (Gerakan) took over Penang and subsequently joined the Barisan Nasional Government in 1973 under the wise leadership of Lim Chong Eu, the DAP stood by the side-lines and essentially competed with the MCA for Chinese support.
With Penang as a solid political base, and working closely with the Federal Government, Gerakan grew from strength to strength. Under Chief Minister Lim Chong Eu, Penang was transformed into a modern manufacturing hub with the electronic industry as the critical base. And as they say, the rest is history.
Gerakan enjoyed political support in Penang because it was able to command the confidence of the Chinese voters and with the help of UMNO and MCA (and the power sharing political philosophy of the BN) led the state government till 2008.
It was a wake-up call for the leaders of DAP. Could they replicate Gerakan’s success?
Impressive victories in the 1986 General Election where the DAP won 10 out of the 33 state seats and 14 state seats in 1990 inspired the leaders of DAP to become more ambitious. They launched a campaign known as “Tanjong” to capture Penang. This was the battle cry in the 1995 General Election and again in the subsequent General Election in 1999. But, DAP failed miserably, winning one state seat in both elections.
By the time of the 11th General Election in 2004, the chastised DAP was more realistic. “We cannot afford a major defeat by the BN for the third time,” said Chow Kon Yeow, state DAP chief, referring to the 1995 defeat where the DAP won only one state seat and the political fiasco and humiliating defeat of Karpal Singh and Lim Kit Siang in the 1999 General Election. He added, “If we carry out a similar campaign, we know we are committing political suicide.”
This is the political pedigree of the DAP.
But, for the Badawi’s misrule, DAP would not have been able to capture Penang.
And this is the point that I am making.
Now that DAP has temporarily “secured” a state base, the leaders will not throw caution to the wind and spread themselves thin all over Malaysia in the 13thGeneral Election. They are paying lip-service to Anwar and PAS when they say that they will assist in capturing Federal power. No doubt, some young idealistic second echelon leaders may aspire to such heights of political ambition, but the old foxes in the party know too well that it is better to hang on to Penang at all costs so that in the event Pakatan Rakyat fails to capture power at the Federal level, they can lick their wounds in the comfort of Penang and recover to fight another future battle and or even do a deal with Barisan Nasional.
What was the smoking-gun for this political insight?
This is apparent in the dogged resistance by the party incumbents in the state government to the suggestion by Karpal Singh that candidates can only vie for one seat – either Parliament or state, not both. Karpal has his own ambitions and agenda and he knows that his children can only have a future if DAP has strength beyond Penang. But, Karpal has no Indian support and has to grudgingly accept that his political fate lies in the Chinese voters and the 1999 debacle haunts him till this day.
And recently, he has made a lot of blunders, alienating the Muslims and the Non-Muslims on the Hudud issue. In the case of the former, rubbing salt into the wound and in the latter, upsetting those NonMuslims who believe that without PAS, there is no possibility of defeating the BN government.
And don’t be surprised if there is a repeat of 1999 for Karpal Singh. His arrogance and dogmatism will be his downfall and he cannot take the Chinese voters in Bukit Gelugor for granted. The fact that he did not attempt to reclaim his Jelutong seat is most telling of his character as a politician.The “Lion of Jelutong” ran away!
The current political line is that DAP should be given two terms to govern Penang, as one term is insufficient to establish its credentials. This is taking a leaf from Tun Lim Chong Eu who made a similar request when he became the Chief Minister.
But, Lim Guan Eng is not Tun Lim Chong Eu. Lim Chong Eu built Penang from ground up and voters in Penang MUST NEVER FORGET this historic contribution.
Tun Lim Chong Eu laid the foundation, built an “economic palace” for all Penangites – an economic power house, and the Chinese in Penang never had it so good.
Lim Guan Eng just took over the management of an established and thriving state, but in four years HAS NOT BROUGHT ANY FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE TO THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC INFRASTRUCTURE IN PENANG. In all the decades of Penang’s development, DAP (Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh and now Lim Guan Eng) have not contributed in any way to the various policies that have transformed Penang to what it is today.
DAP’s strategy is to hang on to the slender hold it has in Penang and strives to build a political base for the future. This is a mere copy of the strategy by Liu Bei in the Chinese classic, “The Wars of the Three Kingdoms”. PKR and PAS will learn a bitter lesson. But, I believe that PKR is also adopting a similar strategy for Selangor in preparation of a defeat at the Federal level.
It is only PAS who has a genuine ideology for change – its commitment to establish an Islamic “Welfare” State. But, at the present moment, PAS lacks the critical mass on its own to effect such a change. So it has to rely on DAP and PKR. But, PAS’s partners are having a different ball-game. And this will soon unravel.
There is a Chinese proverb: “He, who crosses the bridge and pulls the plank, cannot be trusted”.
DAP tried to build the “Tanjong” bridge as a gateway to capture Penang but failed each time because it lacks the technical skills for such an endeavour. It was a tidal wave that swept them on shore and now that they have survived and got a foothold, every effort must be made to ensure that no one follows them into this bastion. The plank must be pulled!
Fortunately, BN has built the first Penang bridge in anticipation of such an opportunistic political strategy and with the Second Penang bridge near completion, DAP’s attempt to pull the “Plank” will come to nought!
This is the stark reality staring at the face of all the voters in Malaysia.
There is a choice:
– cross safely over a bridge built on solid foundations, or
– cross a plank ……