by Eileen Ng
The Malaysian Insider
May 18, 2014
Can Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud woo the Malay electorate in the Teluk Intan parliamentary seat? That’s what her party, DAP, is trying to find out when they nominated her as its candidate for the May 31 by-election.
Analysts said the party is trying to shed its Chinese-centric image and make inroads to capture the hearts and minds of the Malays by fielding a young Malay woman.
The DAP, which makes up one-third of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact, had been trying hard to prove its detractors wrong by fielding more Malay candidates in the last general election to broaden its appeal among the country’s electoral majority.
To date, it has two Malay MPs – Bukit Bendera’s Zairil Khir Johari and Raub’s Datuk Ariff Sabri – both of whom lead Chinese-majority seats.
Merdeka Center executive director Ibrahim Suffian said despite fielding Dyana, the party will have a challenging task ahead in changing the perception of the electorate.
“This is something that will take time because perception takes a longer time to build up. DAP has a long-term view of this by trying to recast their image from being a communal to a national party,” Ibrahim told The Malaysian Insider.
The respected pollster said that tentative change could be gauged from the upcoming by-election, saying that if DAP managed to poll “a bit more” of support from the Malays, this would be a vindication to the party that it is slowing gaining traction with the community.
In last year’s general election, DAP’s Seah Leong Peng garnered 25% of the 23,000 Malay votes.
The first-term MP died from cancer on May 1, triggering the by-election.
“Teluk Intan is a semi-rural constituency and this will be an interesting development to see how DAP fares by moving away from their comfort zone and putting up a Malay candidate to emphasise its change of image and brand,” said Ibrahim.
Any sign of an increase in Malay votes will be a welcomed break for DAP to prove to its detractors that it can break its Chinese mould.
So the focus in Teluk Intan, according to Universiti Putra Malaysia political analyst Dr Jayum Jawan, is on the young Malay professionals as they are more receptive to change.
“They might not be able to sway the older Malay folk but they can reach out to the younger ones,” he said, adding that it is a good strategy to field Dyana to attract more support.
However, DAP’s attempt to overhaul its image to make it more attractive to the Malay electorate has yet to bear fruit, mainly because its Malay leaders have yet to capture the community’s imagination.
Another problem lies in the seats the party contested, which is mainly in the urban areas, and most of their programmes are urban-centric rather than race-based.
“Malay leaders need to have influence with the community to be successful and the party does not have that,” said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.
Referring to Zairil and Ariff, Khoo said both had yet to command support from the Malay community and he expected the same with Dyana.
“They have not make any significant impact, be it by consistently having dialogues with the public or making a strong stand that resonates with the community,” he said.
Due to her inexperience, Khoo warned that the 27-year-old lawyer will face difficult questions thrown at her by her opponent, especially on the hudud debacle.
PAS had wanted to implement hudud in Kelantan, a plan which saw massive objections from its ally DAP, which all along had been adamantly against the implementation of the Islamic penal code in Malaysia.
Although PAS later shelved its move, it has affected relations between both parties.
“It is a very risky decision, the party’s Malay leaders have not made their stand on hudud clear so there is a risk that Dyana’s opponent is going to ask her stand on the matter,” he said.
Dyana, who is the political aide to DAP veteran leader Lim Kit Siang, is taking on BN’s Datuk Mah Siew Keong, whose candidacy was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday.
Mah, who is the Gerakan president, won the seat in the 1999 and 2004 general elections but lost to DAP’s M. Manogaran and Seah in 2008 and 2013 with a 1,470 and 7,313 vote majority respectively.
Teluk Intan has 60,349 voters comprising 59,927 ordinary voters, 410 early voters and 12 absentee voters.
The constituency includes 23,301 Malay voters (38.6%), 25,310 Chinese voters (41.9%) and 11,468 Indian voters (19%).
Nomination for the by-election would be on May 19 and early voting on May 27.
The DAP first won the seat, then known as Teluk Anson, in the 1969 general election when Chan Fu King defeated then MCA Minister for Health Dr Ng Kam Poh in one of the major upsets.
However, since the redelineation of the parliamentary constituencies in 1974, 1984 and 1993, the constituency of Teluk Anson in 1969 had changed with regard to the composition and character of its voters.
This allowed Gerakan’s candidates to win the seat continuously from 1974 until the 1995 general election when M. Kula Segaran ended the DAP’s losing streak. – May 18, 2014.