DAP winning over Malay voters

Seen as a Chinese-based party, DAP is making slow but steady inroads into the Bumiputera community, according to party leaders.

(Free Malaysia Today) – DAP appears to be gaining ground in seemingly uncharted territory: the Malays.

Despite having been around since the mid-60s, the party has been perceived as a predominantly Chinese-based party, causing many Malays to shy away from it.

This perception, however, according to DAP members, is changing, albeit slowly but surely.

Party member Zairil Khir Johari said that the DAP was only recently able to tap into the Malay grassroots after the 2008 general election.

“Before 2008, the Malay support for DAP was almost non-existent,” he said, adding that the alternative political choice was usually the Islamic-based PAS.

“If you joined the opposition, if you had problems with the government, the natural appeal would be PAS. They have (access to) the suraus and the mosques, which DAP does not have.

“Umno would have its ketua kampung (village chief), while PAS has the religious (advantage), but if the DAP wanted to open a branch in a village, it would be so artificial,” said Zairil, who is also DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng’s political secretary.

DAP’s lack of a large Malay support base for the past 40 years, Zairil claimed, was partially because it was an “urban-based” party; it was more attractive to the city-living Chinese.

The government’s control of the mainstream media did not help the party either.

Malay branches in Penang

According to Zairil, the Umno-linked Malay-based media groups such as Utusan Malaysia blacks out anything DAP-related, unless it was negative.

These factors, according to Zairil, made sure that even urban Malays were kept unaware of the DAP’s handiwork.

However, the party’s entry into the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, coupled with access to the alternative media, appears to have helped its position, Zairil claimed.

He said that the party has been able to open a few Malay branches in Penang, with forays into Perlis as well.

Though acknowledging that its Pakatan allies – PKR and PAS – were there to attract Malay voters, DAP president Karpal Singh said that the party needed to make its own effort in reaching out to the Malays.

“PKR and PAS are there, but we shouldn’t rely on them. We have to go ahead with our own Malay support. Recently, there have been some Malays who have joined us.”

“They’re not shying away from the DAP… but they’re not coming in at the extent that we’d want,” he said.

Karpal said that the DAP had seen some Malay representation over the years, such as through former Bayan Baru MP Ahmad Nor and current Senator Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim.

Even so, he said these efforts into the Malay heartland were not enough.