Will PM candidate in DAP upset balance in Pakatan? Not yet, analysts say

·3-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — PKR would still not see Pakatan Harapan partner DAP as a rival even if the latter were to recruit a politician who could replace Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the prime minister, according to political experts.

They said such a candidate — or even several of the calibre — would not be enough to overcome DAP’s deficit with the Malay community, after the decades of vilification by the party’s rivals.

Commenting on ex-Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming saying former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin could be the PM candidate DAP needed, the analysts said the party in its current form would have no chance of leading the country.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA) Prof Kartini Aboo Talib @ Khalid said the reality was that DAP must be secondary to PKR for Pakatan Harapan to stay in power, so long as the country was majority Malay-Muslims.

“PKR is still leading despite having fewer parliamentary seats than DAP. Also, DAP can’t compete solo and it still needs PKR to support and realise its mission to form a government in the Malays and Bumiputera majority.

“The question is, DAP is deeply rooted and heavily laden with socialist ideology and definitely in the question of nationalism. Who on earth will join DAP and claim to champion nationalism?” she said.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said communal and religious politics remained an effective platform in Malaysia, and both PKR and DAP were at a deficit in this area to rivals in Perikatan Nasional such as Bersatu and PAS, and even some allies like Umno.

He then said it would not matter whether DAP could recruit a potential prime minister, as he predicted neither it nor PKR would be in the position to decide unless they could put up leaders capable of winning over religious-minded voters.

DAP would also need a complete paradigm shift for this to happen, which Oh said would not happen just by a single leader — even Khairy — joining.

“I mean whoever PKR or DAP put up as PM candidate ultimately would not become PM because he is likely not to be perceived as one who is ardently religious enough,” he said.

A leader such as Khairy joining DAP would also not be seen as a threat by PKR because such a person would coincidentally lose appeal with the Malays by joining the democratic socialist party, said assistant professor of political science at International Islamic University Malaysia Syaza Shukri.

This Catch-22 scenario would prevent DAP from reaching a position to realistically propose a candidate to be PM over PKR that was still the lynchpin in PH despite being numerically inferior in Parliament, she said.

“Will it tip the power balance? I don’t think so because there is still scepticism towards DAP by the Malays so PKR still holds the unique position of a multiracial party led by Malays.

“Basically KJ in DAP would have a limited effect on the larger equation,” she said.

Last week, Ong made the suggestion as a guest on the “Keluar Sekejap” podcast hosted by outcast Umno leaders, Khairy and Shahril Hamdan.

When asked to sum up why they should join DAP, Ong claimed the party needed a candidate to be prime minister, and the duo would be suited to this role.

In January, Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan announced Khairy’s expulsion over alleged breaches of party discipline, and the imposition of a six-year suspension of Shahril’s party rights.

DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke previously downplayed Ong’s remarks about Khairy and Shahril, saying they were only the former Bangi MP’s personal opinion and not representative of the party’s view.