Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz and Aspan Alias are joining the DAP. This is big because it is yet another big step in widening the party’s appeal to the larger Malaysian demographics.

Let us face it. The DAP is mainly seen as a Chinese party. The characterization may be unfair to some extent because there is significant number of Indians in the party and there are definitely Malays in it. But the party derives its support mainly from Chinese areas and I do not think that can be dismissed easily. Even if it was untrue, the typical Malays who can be counted on to vote for UMNO and Barisan Nasional see the DAP a Chinese party. As the cliché goes, in politics, perception matters.

This is a problem because if the DAP needs to survive in the long term, it cannot merely depend on Chinese voters and other non-Malays/non-Bumiputras. The Chinese demographics is not inspiring from the perspective of electoral politics. It is shrinking due to both the relative prosperity of the community vis-à-vis the general population (number of child per couple/per person drops as prosperity increases; happens almost everywhere) and emigration. To secure its future, the DAP needs to be more Malaysian and that means more diversified support base. That also means non-urban voters.

There are efforts to do that. In the several months after I returned to Malaysia, I managed to observe the DAP machinery during the Sarawak election, thanks to Tony Pua. As I have written previously, despite the seats in Kuching having a heavy Chinese characteristic, the banners were written in multiple languages for the first time. Those multilingual messages at times can be dizzying and but is the cost of inclusiveness. And of course, this has been the norms in the Peninsula.

And of course, there are Zairil Khir Johari and Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim. While their presence and effort are valuable to the DAP, there are just not enough Malays to translate those presence and effort into heavy political influence. Furthermore for Tunku Aziz, I do not think the increasingly competitively vicious political atmosphere will do good for the gentleman that is him. I am taking risk in saying this because I know both of them personally and I do appreciate their opinion of me but both of them are urban Malays whom a majority of Malays are unable to relate immediately.

Ariff Sabri Aziz and Aspan Alias are the different kind of Malays. Both are, or were, UMNO members and relatively influential at that. Their participation in the DAP immediately eats into UMNO’s base by virtue of their value as insiders. Secondly, they do communicate in Malay and that is a big plus point. They are widely read and that makes their entry into DAP all the more important. I do not know much about Aspan Alias but Ariff Sabri Aziz’s former connection to no less than UMNO President Najib Razak says a lot about how big a coup this is.

Yet another point to share. Zairil and Tunku Aziz have been accused as DAP or Chinese stooges, being token Malays and all that. With the presence of more influential Malays who are unlikely satisfied to become merely passive members, together with those already in the party, one has to wonder, is that accusation valid in the first place? One has to ask, why exactly are the Malays joining the DAP?

One Response to “[2482] A big coup for DAP?”

  1. on 03 Jan 2012 at 09:12 Bobby

    Would the reasons “to fight the good fight” be sufficient?
    DAP is clean. Well, at least cleaner than any other party around.
    It’s not race based.
    It’s principles are clear enough to be articulated to all levels of society.
    By right, a libertarian’s wet dream should be to see DAP’s Tunku as the next PM

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