Are the Chinese losing faith in DAP?

It took MCA about four decades to lose support among the Chinese, but Chinese disillusionment with DAP might require a shorter period. It is already happening!

P Ramasamy, FMT

The Umno veterans’ club is perturbed by the low turnout of Chinese voters during the Sungai Bakap by-election.

Its secretary Mustapha Yaakub expressed regret that DAP leaders had failed to engage the 22% of Chinese voters in the state constituency. During the poll last Saturday, only about 47% of Chinese voters turned up to cast their ballots.

While the majority voted for the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led coalition, some might have voted for Perikatan Nasional (PN) out of frustration. The Malay turnout was 70% and Indian, 57%.

Maybe DAP did not play an effective role in mobilising the Chinese voters. But, at the same time, the level of support among the Chinese for the ruling coalition in general and for DAP, in particular, is waning.

The Chinese might think that there is no political alternative to DAP or the PH-led coalition. However, they are not blind to the fact that things are not going well for them in the country.

DAP leaders were once vociferous defenders of Chinese cultural and linguistic rights. However, such a scenario is not present.

Being part of the PH-led coalition with positions as ministers, deputy ministers and state executive council members with perks, DAP leaders behave like “mandors” to the Malay hegemonic government of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

DAP might have the largest number of parliamentary seats within the coalition, but its influence on the government of the day is minimal.

DAP’s ministers and deputy ministers function more as bureaucrats rather than policymakers. They have hardly any input in the derivation of government policies.

While the Indians are slowly deserting the PH-led coalition’s partners, namely DAP and PKR, the Chinese are looking for a political alternative. Unfortunately, the political alternative is not there.

The Chinese voters in the Sungai Bakap constituency were unhappy with the government over the introduction of targeted diesel subsidies, the rise in price of goods and services, the phenomenon of inflation, and others.

At the cultural level, Chinese voters are upset over the latest directive on the dual language programme (DLP). The mandatory requirement of teaching science and mathematics in Bahasa Melayu in at least one class in Standard One and Form One has upset the community.

The directive has thrown asunder the choice to be exercised by parents. DAP never took up the DLP matter with Anwar in a systematic manner.

It is unfortunate that the principal leader of DAP functions as Anwar’s political secretary. How is it possible for the party to put forward bold requests for the Chinese community if it continues to play the role of second and third echelon leaders?

Umno was not even successful in convincing its members in the Sungai Bakap by-election to throw their support behind the ruling coalition. Umno and DAP might be political partners in the Madani government, but this association has not prevented ordinary Umno members from seeing the latter as their political enemy.

It took MCA about four decades to lose support among the Chinese, but Chinese disillusionment with DAP might require a shorter period. It is already happening!

Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow might think that the PH-led coalition lost the narrative to the PN opposition. But unfortunately, how can the ruling coalition present a better narrative when its policies have gone berserk without considering the larger interests of Malaysians?

At the end of the day, it is not about PN having a better narrative than the PH-led coalition, but whether the ruling coalition is doing the right thing to get the support of ordinary Malaysians, particularly those in the lower socio-economic brackets.

If the majority of the Malays went along with the opposition, this had nothing to do with the “green wave”. Race and religion might be factors but they have to be contextualised in the larger political, economic, and social circumstances.

Those who voted for PN might have done so to ameliorate their everyday sufferings. The resolution of their social and economic predicament arising from an increase in the price of goods, targeted diesel subsidies, and others might have been sought in religious terms.

In this respect, PN offered a better alternative to the crass materialism of the PH-led coalition with its synthetic religious credentials.

P Ramasamy is Urimai chairman and a former Penang deputy chief minister.