Umno-DAP: Sleeping with the enemy

Former foes DAP and Umno are now engaged in an uneasy truce. However, differences at the grassroot level may be costly for both parties.

Yeoh Guan Jin, Free Malaysia Today

If there is anyone in the room who believes that the DAP and Umno have kissed and made up and it’s all hunky-dory, he must be living on a different planet.

Decades of enmity cannot be so easily put aside even if it is for the “greater good”.

The DAP’s short fling with Islamist party PAS is a case in point.

Umno and DAP leaders may do what they can to coax and cajole their respective grassroot members to vote for one another’s candidates in the coming state elections, which they are already doing, but on the ground, sentiments are very different.

The response to such calls from within Umno is very telling.

For instance, supreme council member Isham Jalil pointed out that the ideologies of the two parties are “incompatible”.

The youth wing’s permanent chairman Wan Agyl Wan Hassan later described supreme council member Ahmad Maslan’s call to members to support DAP candidates as “way out of line”.

However, less has been said about getting DAP supporters to vote for Umno. A few leaders, including secretary-general Loke Siew Fook, have asked their members to back Umno.

It is not clear if the DAP grassroots will do as they are told but given the threat of the green wave spreading further, they may just do as advised.

The unexpected resurgence of Bersatu and PAS has spooked the non-Malays and if they have to go out and vote for a Malay-Muslim party that seems to be more ideologically and racially equitable, they probably will.

Perhaps the Chinese, who make up most of the DAP supporters, are more practical while the more conservative among the Malays are more likely ruled by emotions.

The rise of the Chinese-majority DAP has brought a great sense of anxiety among conservative Malays.

For them helping the DAP win more seats is like signing their own death warrant.

At this juncture, it is difficult for anyone to change the mindset of this segment of the Malay population.

No amount of cajoling by Umno leaders will make a difference, especially when some of its top guys are also expressing doubt about the cooperation with the DAP.

The best the unity government can hope for is that the DAP retains its seats in the urban centres, where it has been quite well established given the high proportion of non-Malay voters.

It should not be too difficult. The non-Malays have a stake in ensuring that the green wave does not roll on further.

If the Umno detractors were any wiser, they would realise that helping the DAP would be to their advantage, especially in constituencies where very close fights are likely.

Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu are already a lost cause. Unless there is a major shift in voting pattern, Perikatan Nasional (PN) comprising Bersatu and PAS will keep their flag flying in those states.

That leaves Penang, Negeri Sembilan and Selangor. Political analysts are of the view that in Penang, Pakatan Harapan (PH) may lose a few Malay-majority seats but will get to stay for another term.

Negeri Sembilan may go either way but the battleground will be in Selangor where PN seems to have gained strength.

Malaysians have never been more divided, so it is a real irony that we actually have a “unity government”.