Why the frenzy over DAP polls

Several reasons make this weekend’s congress the most exciting in recent history. 

Leven Woon, FMT

Tomorrow’s election of DAP’s central executive committee (CEC) will be the most keenly watched in recent memory for the twin reasons that the 13th general election is impending and that the party, as part of Pakatan Rakyat, has never been better poised to defeat Barisan Nasional.

Adding to the excitement of the occasion is the unprecedented frenzy of the competition. Observers agree that this can be attributed to two factors: the huge number of delegates who will be voting and the vacancy of a vice chairman’s seat reserved for a Malay candidate, caused by the resignation of Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim from the party.

Sixty-eight candidates are vying for 20 positions. Although the number of contenders is smaller than in previous elections, the competition is far more intense because the winners will have a good chance of being fielded in the 13th GE.

Under the DAP system, delegates to the congress elect the 20 CEC members, who will then choose among themselves the key office bearers, who in turn will add 10 to 15 more members to the committee by appointment.

DAP witnessed a surge in membership after the 2008 election, in which it won 28 parliament seats and 83 state seats. Party branches have been mushrooming across the nation, resulting in a sharp increase in the number of members entitled to attend the annual congress.

There will be 2,576 delegates at this weekend’s congress, compared to 1,750 during the last party polls. The hundreds of new delegates might produce a surprise by not following the traditional voting pattern favoured by party advisor Lim Kit Siang and secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.

A first-time delegate told FMT that he expected some senior leaders to be dropped in favour of younger personalities. He speculated that the delegates would probably vote in 10 veterans and give the other seats to young blood.

In the current CEC, 13 members would fit the description of veterans. Among them are figures who have served either as MPs or state legislators for more than 15 years.

Some of them might be replaced by first-term MPs or state representatives who have gained popularity since the 2008 election. These include Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng and Selangor exco Ean Yong Hian Wah.

Perak rivalry

There have been reports that rival factions within Perak DAP might extend their fight to the CEC election. One faction is led by cousins Ngeh Koo Ham and Nga Kor Ming and the other by M Kulasegaran, who is currently a vice chairman at the national level. The Ngeh-Nga faction is backing former Perak state assembly speaker V Sivakumar against Kulasegaran.

Media speculation has indicated that the Ngeh-Nga team will also vote against party chairman Karpal Singh, who is aligned to Kulasegaran.