MALACCA • Malaysia's opposition party Democratic Action Party (DAP) is reeling from the shock resignations of one MP and three Malacca assemblymen, moves that led to open bickering among top leaders.
The infighting comes at a bad time for opposition parties as they try to cobble a credible front against the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition for the next general election which is expected to be called this year.
The resignations are also a blow to the DAP, which is less prone to bitter leadership tussles than most of the other opposition or BN parties.
The DAP has the biggest number of seats among the opposition parties in Parliament with 38 wards, and governs Penang and Selangor states with its allies.
Kota Melaka MP Sim Tong Him and the three assemblymen who quit on Sunday said the Chinese-based party has lost its direction, which is seen as a criticism of its leadership for working closely with former premier Mahathir Mohamad, the Malaysian media reported. "The current DAP leaders are also not willing to accept constructive criticism," Mr Sim told a news conference, as reported by The Star newspaper yesterday.
Tun Dr Mahathir, who stepped down from his post 13 years ago, is seen by some as using the opposition to topple Prime Minister Najib Razak and not to back the opposition's agenda to reform Malaysia. Mr Sim said two months ago that Dr Mahathir's presence could scare off opposition supporters.
But critics of the four Malacca politicians say they quit as they were bitter after losing internal party polls in December 2015 and were suspended for making statements against DAP leaders.
Mr Sim was the DAP's sole MP from Malacca. The other Malacca MPs are four from BN and one from the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat. The resignations of the three Malacca legislators means the DAP loses half of its assemblymen in the state. The four men will become independent lawmakers.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said yesterday that the resignations were a "gift'"for BN as they weaken the party.
Responding to Mr Sim's accusation that the DAP has lost its direction, Mr Lim said on his Facebook account: "The party did not change but remained the same. Sim and his faction changed after their (DAP polls) defeat, focusing their attacks on the party rather than on BN's corruption scandals or the excesses of the Malacca chief minister".
Other DAP leaders have either jumped in to defend Mr Sim and his men, or say good riddance to the resignations.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the DAP's working with "political personalities who had fought against DAP in the past" did not go down well with its supporters.
"We know that banding together in politics through marriages of convenience never last and this should be understood by the people," The Star yesterday reported him as saying.