Who is the kingmaker?

Lim Sue Goan, Sin Chew Daily

Utusan Malaysia recently published a photo of a Malay participant in the Perhimpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat rally on Saturday holding a DAP flag. It is a scene unimaginable during the Mahathir administration.

The DAP had been labelled as an anti-Malay party over the years. Did the photo show that Malays have not only accepted the DAP, but are also willing to openly show their support? If it is a trend, the change of regime will then not be something impossible.

In fact, the 13th general election is the first election in history with the highest chance of a regime change. The possible regime change mentioned by the opposition earlier was only wishful thinking as political conditions were not conducive yet.

During the 1990 general election, the opposition parties formed the United Opposition Front (UOF) and shouted slogans to change the regime. It triggered a wave of ripples, but the BN regime remained steady.

The opposition was always defeated in the last century as Umno grabbed most of Malay votes, until the outbreak of a party crisis within Umno in 1987, when Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah formed the Semangat 46 party after failing to challenge Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Only then, the opposition saw a hope of overturning the BN.

However, Tengku Razaleigh’s influence was not reflected in the Malay community. Semangat 46 suffered a great loss in the 1990 general election and many political critics blamed him for wearing a Kadazan headgear with the so-called Christian cross on it during an activity in Sabah. In fact, the key was because Malay voters did not wish to change.

The Chinese were passionate at that time. Therefore, the DAP was able to win 14 state seats in Penang and it could have taken over Penang if it had gained three more seats. Lim Kit Siang also ended the political career of Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu. In addition, PAS took over Kelantan.

The opposition ushered in another opportunity to change the regime in the 1999 general election. The then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was dismissed and arrested in September 1998, triggering the Reformasi movement. Anwar’s wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail founded PKR and later formed the Alternative Front with PAS and the DAP.

PAS was the big winner in that election. The DAP suffered a great loss, with even Dr Chen Man Hin, Karpal Singh and Lim Kit Siang losing their seats as Chinese voters were scared away by the Islamic state issue. The newly founded PKR won five parliamentary seats or 11.67 per cent of the votes.

It is not true to say the Reformasi movement had set off the anti-ruling party current among the Malay community. If Malay voters opposed Umno, BN should have lost power. In the 2004 general election, BN was able to regain Malay votes.

Umno encountered a split after Mahathir lashed out at Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi during the 2008 general election. Indirectly, it led to the political tsunami. And now, could they still change the regime after Umno has reunited?

It is not practical to hope for a split in Umno to achieve the change of power as votes would eventually return to BN. The alternative coalition can overcome the saying that describes Umno as the protective umbrella of the Malay only by changing the mindset and pursuing reforms.

Most Perhimpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat rally participants were Malays. However, would rural voters accept the DAP? Different from the previous two general elections, there are four million swing voters this time, including 2.9 million new voters.

The key to defend Putrajaya depends on whether racial politics is still working. History might repeat itself if racial politics resurfaces.