Will new sec-gen Loke change Malay perception of DAP?
Observers say he is younger and seen as more ‘people-friendly’ than some of the older leaders.
(MalaysiaNow) – DAP has long struggled to find a foothold in the Malay community where it is often branded as a “chauvinist” party associated with pro-Chinese leanings, especially in issues like language and education.
Although it has worked before with Malay parties like PAS, Semangat 46 and Bersatu, the only time it succeeded in forming the federal government was in 2018, as part of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
It was the presence of Mahathir and Bersatu, his party at the time, that was credited with drawing the Malay vote to PH despite the community’s distrust of DAP.
On Sunday, the party elected a new secretary-general – Seremban MP Loke Siew Fook – to replace Lim Guan Eng who had held the post for the maximum of three terms.
While Lim was appointed as chairman, in DAP, it is the post of secretary-general that is considered the most influential.
Lim, the finance minister under PH, is known for his outspoken manner while Loke, who held the portfolio of transport minister, is seen as more relaxed.
Loke’s command of Malay is also better than that of many others in the party leadership, which could give him an edge in bridging the gap with the Malay community.
But it remains to be seen whether personality will be enough to win them over.
For Seremban Umno Youth chief Zool Amali Hussin, personality is not the issue.
“DAP is DAP,” he said to MalaysiaNow, adding that the party’s ideology would not change with its leadership.
“Even its stint in Putrajaya was not enough to change the Malay perception of DAP.”
Veteran journalist G Manimaran however said that Loke’s “softer” personality could widen acceptance of the party among all races.
Adding that Loke was a third generation leader, he said he was also a new face.
“Among the Malays, Loke will be seen as a more people-friendly leader than those who came before,” he told MalaysiaNow.
Political observer Wong Chin Huat agreed, saying DAP’s negative image among the Malays would fade with Loke as its top leader.
At 44, Wong said, Loke was about a generation behind the leaders of other parties such as Anwar Ibrahim, Mohamad Sabu, Muhyiddin Yassin and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
“The big age difference will also attract the attention of voters who want someone from the next generation, including the Malays,” he told MalaysiaNow.