The DAP paradox

The DAP paradox is the more seats they win, and the more powerful they become, the more of a liability they are to whoever they support as prime minister.

Nathaniel Tan at Ktemoc Konsiders

DAP’s biggest asset is its biggest liability.

Of all the parties in Malaysia, it can be confidently said that DAP is the only peninsular party that can be guaranteed to win a large number of seats, no matter what happens.

There is no reason to expect support for DAP to reduce significantly in any of its strongholds, no matter what happens politically in the near future.

The same cannot be said for any other major peninsular party. The success of parties like Umno, Bersatu, PAS, and PKR will depend largely on constantly evolving dynamics, alliances, and arrangements.

Almost regardless of what alignments emerge, however, as long as DAP does not go into the elections taking the type of stance and positioning traditionally associated with MCA, they should still win big in all their traditional strongholds.

The question is: So what?

DAP’s success in 2018 represented the absolute limit of how far the party can go with its current configuration and branding.

The Rocket is seen as the rock-steady symbol of non-Malay political power.

Amongst non-Malay voters in the peninsula, DAP (and whoever they endorse) might command anywhere from 70% to 90% support. Brands like MCA, MIC, and Gerakan on their own likely command a negligible amount of support.

No Malay-based party comes anywhere near this level of support among the Malay electorate. The fragmentation of Malay political power is almost its defining feature at this point – with Umno, PAS, PKR and Bersatu commanding comparable levels of support.

This is why DAP has always been the bogeyman. With over 40 seats in parliament, it represents an unshakeable mountain of non-Malay political power. Compared side by side to the much more fragmented Malay political power, it is always perceived and/or painted as a dire threat to the Malays.

This is also why most Malay-based political parties consistently and without fail paint DAP as the enemy they must fight against. In Malaysia’s version of a tale as old as time, the line is: these strong, threatening, united Chinese are out to get the Malays and take what little you have.

In effect, nearly every initiative DAP has taken to change this perception has failed to do so effectively. It is the one perception DAP cannot shake, no matter how hard they try (and mind you, they are trying very hard indeed).