Tunku Aziz’s quit move: How big a blow for DAP?
KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 — There is no doubt that Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim’s decision to quit the DAP is a public relations disaster for the party but one question remains — how much impact does it have on the party?
When Tunku Abdul Aziz joined the DAP in August 2008, it was a great moment for the party as it tried to expand its base from a predominantly Chinese political party to a seemingly more multiracial one.
Now only a handful of Malay members such Aspan Alias, Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz, Zairil Khir Johari, Hata Wahari and Prof Dr Ariffin Omar are still with the party.
Political analysts are mixed in their assessment on how much damage it has caused the party, particularly among the Malay voters.
“The impact is limited. Firstly, Tunku Abdul Aziz is a civil society leader, appealing to the Malays in the middle class, not traditional voters. Most traditional voters don’t live in the DAP constituency.
“Tunku Abdul Aziz left the DAP because of the Bersih (rally). Many people support Bersih and choosing the issue to leave the DAP has limited effect,” said a political analyst at UCSI university, Dr Ong Kian Ming.
However, he told Bernama that the party did suffer a moral setback, especially on party secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s reputation.
“Therefore, the challenge for the DAP now is to mitigate this backlash, perhaps by fielding more Malay candidates in the coming election. Definitely, Bersih has more impact compared to the Tunku (Abdul) Aziz issue. I believe the Tunku (Abdul) Aziz issue will die down in two weeks’ time,” he said.
A political analyst at the Sunway Monash University, Prof James Chin, also believed Tunku Abdul Aziz’s decision to quit had a minimal impact on the DAP as many Malays, especially among the elders, already saw the DAP as a Chinese party.
However, political observer and veteran journalist James Wong said the publicity generated by the issue was definitely negative to the party, and the extent of its impact would depend largely on how much the voters disliked the ruling coalition.
“Among the hardcore supporters, there is definitely no impact because they support the party. Moreover, some view Tunku (Abdul) Aziz as a newcomer, after March 2008. In the eyes of hardcore members, he was still new compared to the hardcore supporters who have been with the party much longer,” he said.
Wong pointed out that most of the Malays, whether in the rural or urban areas as well as those in the lower-income group, already identified themselves with Umno, PAS or PKR and there was not much left for the DAP to gain.
Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) chief executive officer Wan Saiful Wan Jan said the decision by Tunku Abdul Aziz to quit the party would have some impact on the DAP, but again it depended on how its political rival would play up the issue.
“Tunku (Abdul Aziz) is very much like an English gentlemen, not much as a leader eventhough the DAP has been trying to sell him as a leader to the Malay voters when he was in the party. The same goes for Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir when he quit Umno. The resignation had not much impact.
“However, I fully expect the BN to really go all out to capitalise on this. By doing so, it will put the DAP on the defensive and this would not be good to the DAP as the impact would last longer,” he told Bernama.
Still, a commentary written by Sin Chew Daily deputy chief news editor Tay Tian Yan provided some hint of the party’s leaders’ view on the latest issue when she wrote that a senior DAP leader had said Tunku Abdul Aziz’s departure had dealt a serious blow to the party and all its previous efforts had gone down the drain.
Tay said the whole episode had to some degree exposed the “populism and fanaticism” that she claimed was beginning to take shape within the party in recent years “where it’s eager to drift with popular sentiments”, and lose the rational thinking and democratic traits.
“Under the spell of populism and fanaticism, the party surrenders its capacity to think and debate logically, rendering it less tolerant to criticisms. Having won unprecedented triumph in the last general election, the DAP has since failed to entrench its cultural ideologies, basking instead in public cheers and a sense of well-being. It has tripped into the trap of its own victory,” she said in an opinion piece published by Sin Chew Daily last week.
Party insiders also said the whole issue had been badly handled with many members believing the party leadership should handle the issue more tactfully, including having face-to-face talk instead of communicating through the telephone.
Not only that, the subsequent “attack” against Tunku Abdul Aziz in cyberspace by some “blind” supporters of the DAP had further tarnished the image of the party and had put some party leaders in discomfort.
“It really makes me angry. I really want to deplore those who attacked him. I’m asking all DAP members to respect Tunku’s decision, not to despise him. Few people can come close to him as for poise and elegance.
“I am really angry that the DAP blind supporters attacked him in such a way in FB (Facebook). It really didn’t help the DAP,” said DAP central executive committee member Jeff Ooi when contacted by Bernama. — Bernama