#Opinion* The bittersweet fruit behind Teluk Intan's 'loss'

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Last Updated: 12:30pm, Jun 05, 2014

THE unruly underhanded campaign and political tactics employed by Barisan Nasional, including the allegedly "new" weapon of using gambling syndicates to indirectly buy votes (according to Nga Kor Ming before the polls), knows no bounds.

Our Election Commission is hopeless, and our police are unfair - such criminality is thus normalised. Winning any election by Pakatan Rakyat had since required some positive votes for Pakatan be used to "cover" some of the "dirty" votes that were casted to BN.

While we can always attribute a Pakatan election loss to these despicable and immoral BN practices - which accusations aren't baseless in any sense - there will always be another reason that contributed to the defeat.

When Mah Siew Keong, the Gerakan chief was announced the winner by a hairsbreadth of 238 votes (where spoilt votes exceeded the majority), we can deduced the two most obvious reasons for the loss - namely, that conservative Chinese voters (which constituted 10% of the "swing" votes, i.e. eventual tiebreakers) would still rather vote for a Chinese face for the Chinese community, and secondly to the terribly low voter turnout.

There may be two very valid options for Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud to pursue, and they are both increasingly crucial as the "Dyana Sofya phenomenon" had teased more exciting political times for Malaysia.Option 1: Lead Teluk Intan DAP branch

DAP had so far been quite unsure on whether their supporters had been comfortable with fielding a non-Chinese candidate. Zairil Khir Johari is almost-Chinese, and Datuk Mohamad Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz already had a following under his Sakmongkol AK47 blogger name and was seen as a disgruntled former Umno assemblyman. On the other hand, Dyana was entirely different - a wild card - as she fulfilled the three cardinal features for being a loyal Umno supporter - Malay by birth, Umno family heritage, and educated in a bumiputera-only UiTM. An "organic" Umno Malay of sorts.

Thus, if the problem was indeed that conservative Chinese were still uncomfortable in voting for a non-Chinese candidate, then Dyana needs to start heading the DAP branch in Teluk Intan to provide services and assistance by stretching resources as far as possible, even without the MP or assemblywoman title.

This is the best way to familiarise with local sentiments, allow an early introduction to the locals to gain their trust, and create a system and culture of administration to hit the ground running once that area is won in the next election. In fact, these can be carried out by any candidate in any constituency that DAP wishes to field - more so for non-Chinese candidates of DAP, as time is needed to prove DAP is serious about the multiracial politics and party leadership. Of course, these are all premised on the fact that Dyana would be fielded as the future candidate for Teluk Intan again. I would rather Dyana take on a much larger agenda and focus on constituencies of BN strongholds which DAP never even once dreamed of entering.

This is due to the fact that Dyana's character, story, and influence (dubbed "the Dyana phenomenon") had produced the necessary political advancement for DAP, Pakatan, and the aspirations of the future. Also, if the loss now is really just due to the post-election political fatigue, and the very nature of the low turnout in by-elections, then it is not necessarily a show of resentment towards Pakatan. I suspect the votes will probably flow back to Pakatan in the next GE anyway.

Therefore, Dyana can be up for a bigger task, which brings me to Option 2.

Option 2: Steering a nationwide campaign for a new DAP

DAP's focus has to be on attracting capable non-Chinese candidates (preferably Malay candidates, which the party lacks miserably) to DAP membership (currently, DAP only has around 10% of Malays as members) and to provide the people with political education to prove that DAP is not a "chauvinistic, racist" party or worse even, a "communist" party.

This "Dyana" route was not the route focused before May 13th's GE because there was no one with the likes of her to spark off such a momentum, and the political risk at the time would have been too great to burn off Pakatan's chances of capturing Putrajaya.

Now, Dyana had given that opening. While the reception is not entirely positive yet, this can be done by gaining the trust and keeping the momentum alive. DAP recognised the importance of this as DAP cannot only focus its seats on Chinese-majority ones, not least because it will only turn into a Chinese party like MCA, which DAP is adamant not to replicate, but also because 38 of the Parliamentary seats won last year seems like the "maximum point" for DAP. A new route is imperative. To gain trust and keeping this "New DAP" idea alive, possible GE14 candidates of DAP can similarly adopt Option 1 to work for the constituency. There is no rule that only elected representatives are allowed to work for the constituency. Even if that person is not a future candidate, by allowing a non-Chinese to work there early helps to break the myth that non-Chinese candidates cannot emphatise with the plight of the community.

It also provides the opportunity to recognise that merit is what matters most, and non-Chinese in DAP not discriminated against.

If one could slowly think of Malay candidates with DAP's logo, then DAP would be seen as more honest with its preached ideals, and the reimaging process will be successful.

"The Dyana Sofya phenomenon" is focused quite entirely on the convictions of the young, and the underrepresented female politicians. Not only is BN genuinely fearful and worried upon recognising her background and influence ("ingrates!" they yelled), Dyana's power is that she withstands pressure elegantly and had never taken the smear campaigns personally.

This means that BN's dirty politics are likely (and they have had) to backfire by exposing BN's true colours - that they are sexist, racist, unethical, unprincipled, backward, and old. These all will not gel well with the public, instead these will convince the fencesitters and convert the former-BN supporters to Pakatan upon such irritation.

What is wrong will be wrong, and the public will not be dumbed down forever.

Dyana, the likely turning point

To be honest, having Dyana in Parliament will not make drastic difference for these Parliamentary sittings right up to the next GE. More attention will undoubtedly be directed upon her, and I hold no qualms that she will challenge national issues of the government unwaveringly with her legal knowledge and professionalism, if she did win.

But we need to also realise how BN has the ultimate and overwhelming control of the House of Parliament, with an ultra-obedient Backbenchers Club, control of parliamentary procedures by executive (government), a heavily biased Speaker, and many other machineries. Dewan Rakyat is effectively reduced to a chatter box for personal attacks and name-calling, and of a voting machine where government never loses.

Thus, not having an additional task of being in Parliament can actually help Dyana to play a bigger role in shifting the opinions of Malaysians to this new dimension of a truly colour-blind politics, by leading a nationwide campaign of a multiracial DAP and Malaysia is the best answer for the future.

What I would plea is that DAP supporters do not resort to blame allocation upon this TI "loss" of how Lim Kit Siang was wrong or how DAP should have fielded Hew "Superman" Kuan Yew, who very likely could've won easily. But even Hew recognized the need to dramatically alter the DAP landscape and that of Malaysia's to win in GE14.

If you are a true supporter of Pakatan, or just a true believer that a multiethnic and fair Malaysia is the way forward, then we must understand the rationale of this laudable political risk undertaken.

Teluk Intan's importance lies beyond the very by-election, and BN never could've calculated how they caught the "Dyana Sofya flu" when all the top boys of BN jumped out of their seats, wiping their noses, before jumping onto the table to throw a large tantrum. This is a blessing in disguise, I reckon. Dyana has won the hearts of many Malaysians, and this by-election merely "freed" her and DAP to drift a few steps forward to Putrajaya. However, it is in no way certain nor an easy task. Dyana needs to lead the momentum that was bred out of her fascinating introduction to the spotlight, and churn the waves with many more "Dyana phenomenon", so that BN's ship would wreck entirely come GE14.

Only then Politik Baharu can arise.

James Chai is a first-year law student

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