Loke seen as favourite to succeed Guan Eng in DAP

DAP organising secretary Loke Siew Fook is believed to be the front runner to succeed Lim Guan Eng as party secretary-general.

PETALING JAYA: DAP organising secretary Loke Siew Fook is the favourite to succeed Lim Guan Eng as secretary-general at the party’s next central executive committee (CEC) elections, says a party leader.

Lim is in his third and final term as secretary-general.

The CEC elections are likely to be held early next year because of Covid-19. The last election was held on Nov 12, 2017. The party constitution allows an individual to hold the secretary-general’s post for only three terms, of three years each.

A party leader who asked not to be named told FMT: “I believe the party will choose Loke as the new secretary-general, as he is seen as the leader who is closest to Lim and to be fair, he has been the organising secretary for a long time which makes him the natural choice.”

As organising secretary, Loke was the main “operator” in the party, approving membership, liaising with branches and keeping in touch with grassroots leaders on a daily basis.

“People (DAP members and leaders) don’t really have a problem with Loke, we don’t have a situation like in PKR, it’s not one camp against another so I don’t expect any issues during the CEC election,” said FMT’s source.

But the party insider said any problems would come from the state level, particularly in Selangor and Johor, where some grassroots leaders feel there is no room for them as many leadership roles are filled by technocrats.

“At the CEC level there won’t be any issues, but at the grassroots level, you may see a ‘rebellion’ like the one against Tony Pua in Selangor. You may see a similar thing in Johor.”

In December 2018, Pua, the outgoing Selangor DAP chairman, failed to be voted into the party’s 15-member state committee. He received only 292 votes, which placed him in 19th spot.

James Chin of University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute also said it was “very likely” that Loke would be made secretary-general even though he is not one of the three deputy secretaries-general.

James Chin.

The current deputy secretaries-general are Nga Kor Ming, Teresa Kok and V Sivakumar.

Chin said: “It is clear that Loke has support within the party. He is liked by all factions and is a capable person. ”

Should Loke be chosen as the new secretary-general, he would have to drive the growth in support for the party from the Malay and non-Muslim Bumiputera community, as support from the Chinese had reached its maximum limit.

He said one of DAP’s failings, particularly during their stint in federal power, was that the civil service and some sections of the Malay ground saw the party as too straight forward and aggressive.

“This often does not work well with Malay, Indian and non-Muslim Bumiputera communities.”

Chin said, however, that Lim and his father Kit Siang will continue to have substantial influence in DAP and do not need to hold positions to be influential.

Awang Azman Pawi.

“But while I don’t see any major shift (in the party’s direction), I think a new secretary-general will try to rebrand the party to make it more Malaysian. They will really want to attract young, urban Malays and Chinese as they would feel this demographic will be more Malaysian in their outlook.”

Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Pawi believes DAP should give Nga or Kok the chance to replace Lim who has held the position for so long.

The new secretary-general should address issues like the over aggressive pursuit of reforms without considering sentiments of the grassroots outside the party.

“At times, they acted like the opposition while in government. DAP needs to be seen as a moderate party that can be accepted by all members of society and avoid controversy.

Lee Kuok Tiung.

“I believe a new secretary-general will bring change in the party’s direction and approach.”

Lee Kuok Tiung of Universiti Malaysia Sabah said Lim’s successor may not necessarily be any of the three deputy secretaries-general. “I believe many DAP leaders have the calibre and capability to take over as secretary-general.”

Among the new secretary-general’s priorities, Lee said, would be to strengthen ties with the party’s Pakatan Harapan allies.