Former Malaysian law minister Zaid Ibrahim joins DAP

(From left) DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former law minister Zaid Ibrahim at yesterday's press conference, when Mr Zaid announced that he was joining the Chinese-majority DAP. Leaders of the opposition party said they have
(From left) DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former law minister Zaid Ibrahim at yesterday's press conference, when Mr Zaid announced that he was joining the Chinese-majority DAP. Leaders of the opposition party said they have not decided whether they will field him in the next general election.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Malaysia's opposition has sought to boost its standing with Malay voters by welcoming a former law minister into the Chinese-majority Democratic Action Party (DAP) yesterday.

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim announced yesterday that he had joined the DAP, making this his fourth foray into politics after having been in three other parties.

"I see DAP as an effective government that can contribute towards solving our nation's problems," he told reporters.

The DAP is attempting to make inroads into the rural Malay vote, which is strongly held by the ruling Barisan Nasional bloc, led by Malay-dominated Umno.

DAP leaders said that they have not decided whether Mr Zaid would be fielded as a candidate in the next general election, due by August next year. But Mr Zaid said he is open to the idea .

Widely seen as a well-to-do liberal, Mr Zaid, who owns Malaysia's largest legal firm, is confident that he can appeal to Malays of different backgrounds.

"I am not from an aristocrat family. I went to a kampung school, and am more Malay than Najib is," he said, referring to Prime Minister Najib Razak.

"I'm comfortable with my Malay credentials, whether it's the kampung or city, or conservative or liberal."

Mr Zaid served under former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi but quit in 2008 over the arrest of three individuals under the now-repealed Internal Security Act. He was later sacked from Umno.

Mr Zaid briefly joined opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat before leaving to form the Kelantan-based Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air, which he left in 2012.

Given Mr Zaid's political history, DAP leaders were quick to dispel doubt over his commitment to the party.

"His views are consistent with DAP and he'll be an asset in the broader cause of saving Malaysia," said DAP MP Liew Chin Tong.

Present at Mr Zaid's announcement were DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who founded Umno splinter party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

Mr Lim said he hoped this latest development would help combat Umno's message that Malays would lose out under the DAP.

"We hope that with Zaid's entry, we will get Malaysians to look at issues as Malaysians," he said.

But there are doubts as to whether Mr Zaid can draw a Malay crowd for the DAP.

"Despite being from Kelantan, Zaid was never popular among the rural Malays at all," said Dr Oh Ei Sun, a fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Former Malaysian law minister Zaid Ibrahim joins DAP'. Print Edition | Subscribe