Factionalism likely to surface at DAP congress

Party leaders admit there are “teething problems” needing resolution

A veteran blogger said DAP seemed to have forgotten that it owed much of its success to the work of the alternative media. He said this was one sign of the arrogance that the party has often been accused of in the last couple of years.

Hawkeye, FMT

About this time last year, a surprising event occurred during Penang DAP’s annual convention. There was a demonstration outside the convention hall, but the big surprise was that the protesters were party members.

Delegates to the convention, as well as seasoned observers of DAP politics, froze in disbelief. Such a public display of dissent within the party had never before occurred in its history. It was simply not part of DAP culture.

DAP czar Lim Kit Siang missed it. He was busy elsewhere, carrying out tasks related to his job of orchestrating the party’s expansion. But his son, party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, was there to witness it. And so was party chairman Karpal Singh, who shook his head in despair.

But although few could have predicted the demonstration, there was in fact a foreshadowing of it in Karpal’s own spat with deputy secretary-general P Ramasamy. The demonstrators were the latter’s supporters.

Nevertheless, after the initial shock of the event, analysts and pundits began to use their hindsight to explain it. The consensus seemed to be that internal turmoil was inevitable given DAP’s relatively sudden rise to prominence as a party that is part of the governing coalition in several states of the Malaysian federation.

Indeed, the Penang demonstration came just months after DAP had confirmed the strength of its political muscle through dramatic victories in the Sarawak state election, proving that its successes in the 2008 general election were not a mere fluke.

But success is seldom easy to handle, and Guan Eng and other party leaders have admitted privately that there are “teething problems” that they have to contend with.

Some of these problems will no doubt surface this weekend at the party’s national congress in Penang.

Most eyes will focus on the jostling for positions in the 20-member Central Executive Committee (CEC) although they will also be looking at how the party will handle simmering issues about its policies and direction.

Dividing lines

With the growth in its membership size since 2008, DAP has not been able to escape a problem that all large political parties face—factionalism. In DAP’s case, the dividing lines appear to coincide with the state boundaries, the main factions being those in Penang, Perak, Selangor and Johor.

More recently, the Negeri Sembilan faction appears to have come into its own, largely due to the influence of former DAP Youth chief Anthony Loke, the MP for Rasah. Party insiders as well as external observers say he is being groomed to take over from Guan Eng as secretary-general when the latter’s term ends in 2014.

And then there are second echelon leaders also jostling for the spotlight, namely young strategists such as Tony Pua, Jeff Ooi, Liew Chin Tong and Teo Nie Ching. Not to be overlooked are Penang DAP chairman Chow Kon Yeow, who is fast gaining a reputation as the party’s sacred cow, and Teng Chang Khim, Teresa Kok, Ronnie Liu, Gobind Singh, M Kulasegaran, V Sivakumar and Dr Boo Cheng Hau.

At least some of these figures are expected to get seats in the CEC, the only question being how high or low in the hierarchy they will be. There are 20 elected slots. Ten or 15 more will be appointed later. And then, among themselves, they will decide who will hold which posts.