By Invitation

A new fork in the road for the DAP

The formally multiracial but Chinese-dominant Malaysian party is mulling over a future within more multiracial coalitions and partnerships, possibly even including Umno. Why?

ST ILLUSTRATION: MANNY FRANCISCO

The Democratic Action Party (DAP) is the biggest party in the Malaysian Parliament today. This is a curious anomaly, given the prevailing narrative of Malay dominance that defines Malaysian politics. But it is another anomaly that appears to impact the party more profoundly: the DAP is a Chinese-dominated political party (about 70 per cent of its membership is Malaysian Chinese) that propounds a multi-ethnic agenda predicated on racial diversity and inclusion, yet it is often associated with narrow Chinese interests.

This conundrum poses problems for the party. On one hand, its association with Chinese interests means that it is frequently denounced by political adversaries as "extremists" and "chauvinists". On the other hand, its advocacy of inclusivity draws the ire of party conservatives who accuse it of betraying the interests of its core constituency - the ethnic Chinese electorate.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2021, with the headline 'A new fork in the road for the DAP'. Subscribe