Where is Selangor DAP headed under Gobind?

On the evening of Dec 9, people were shocked by Selangor DAP chairman Tony Pua’s defeat in the state party elections. This was despite his contributions to the party throughout the journey to Putrajaya, such as his pursuit of the 1MDB issue.

Other than his successor Gobind Singh Deo, who is communications and multimedia minister, only two of the 15 elected state committee members were said to be aligned to Pua: Selangor state exco Ganabatirau Veraman and Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming.

Under Gobind’s leadership, it will be interesting to see the future of Selangor DAP, including the selection of candidates for the next general election.

The absence of Malay representation may raise eyebrows and invite political attacks by Umno for DAP being a “Chinese chauvinist” party. Gobind and Ganabatirau were the only non-Chinese among the 15 elected committee members. The only two Malay candidates from among the group of 40, Bandar Utama assemblyman Jamaliah Jamaluddin and Fariz Abdullah, lost as well.

It is understood that Pua’s downfall was due to the dissatisfaction of the Selangor DAP grassroots towards his leadership, such as his selection of election candidates and municipal councillors, especially in the Balakong by-election where Yunna Tan, who was not a party member and had absolutely no experience in politics or civil society, was initially proposed as DAP’s candidate.

Due to objections and pressure from the grassroots, the candidacy was ultimately given to Wong Siew Ki, who was elected as the new state assemblyman.

It will take time for us to see if Gobind can helm a new leadership and act accordingly, and not repeat Pua’s mistakes. Nobody should try to be the Empress Dowager Cixi of Qing Dynasty and attempt to make Gobind their puppet leader. He needs to show party members and the people that he is able to carry on the legacy of his father, the late Karpal Singh who was the DAP national chairman.

We should expect to see new faces in the next general election while incumbent MPs and state assemblymen are axed from candidacy. Although in recent years we have seen young people (35 and below) becoming YBs, we should realise that there is no guarantee of livelihood in politics, as one might serve for just one term as a lawmaker and then disappear from the political arena for good. This would be particularly risky for young lawmakers who are either defeated in the next election or are axed from candidacy.

It will be difficult for such high-profile people to find a job as many employers might be afraid to employ them. The futures of Dusun Tua assemblyman Edry Faizal, Jamaliah and Kampung Tunku assemblyman Lim Yi Wei might be at stake. Subang Jaya assemblyman Michelle Ng, on the other hand, might just carry on with her legal practice as a lawyer.

As a social democratic and democratic socialist party supposedly fighting for working class people, would DAP leaders propose policies to help their jobless former YBs later on?

DAP would also face challenges in attracting more Malays to the party and keeping its “Chinese image” from turning it into “MCA 2.0”, as well as producing more young and women YBs in this political atmosphere dominated by middle-aged men.

By attracting Malays to the party, DAP would not only lessen political attacks by Umno on a racial basis, it would also become a “haven” for Malays who ardently believe in social democracy and democratic socialism, and who also want a secular Malaysia.

While PKR might currently be the most suitable place for them, in reality PKR members generally range from “centre-left” (social democratic and democratic socialist) to “centre-right” (inclined towards capitalism and conservatism). PKR has both liberal Malays such as Khalid Jaafar who has been speaking up against Islamist agendas, and hardline conservative Malays like Imran Abd Hamid who once claimed that the “sexy” attire worn by athletes would lead to adultery.

Given that the candidacy of Jamaliah, Lim and Ng in the 14th general election was said to have been quite controversial within the party circle due to their political inexperience, DAP should start figuring out how to produce more Wong Siew Ki’s and Jenny Choys (Perak state assemblyman for Canning), who have been in the party for a good number of years and made considerable contributions before becoming YBs. This would be a bonus, as people like Wong and Choy achieved both youth and women representation without significantly compromising the quality of candidates.

The candidacy issue, which has been happening not only in DAP but in PKR and possibly other parties as well, shows that our elections need to move away from the current first-past-the-post system. Instead, we should adopt either a mixed-member proportional system such as in Germany and New Zealand, or a mixed-member majoritarian system as in Japan and Thailand.

By then, we might have both constituency representatives enjoying grassroots support and party-list representatives handpicked by the party leadership. Either one of the two proposed systems would enable a talented person to become a party-list MP without having grassroots support in any constituency, while grassroots leaders would have a better chance of being recognised in the party and possibly contesting in their respective constituencies in elections in attempts to become a constituency’s MP.

Anyway, I would like to congratulate the new Selangor DAP chairman Gobind and the rest of the leadership line-up. I hope to see them bringing Selangor DAP to new heights. I hope they do not forget their social democratic principles, and that they work for the interest of the people instead of their own.

Elijah Hee is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.