(Kota Melaka, Sunday): The next general election will be Malaysiaís tenth general election and the DAPís eighth general election.
The DAP has faced ups and downs in our last seven general elections, beginning first in 1969 when with 24 Parliamentary and 57 State Assembly candidates, the DAP won 13 Parliamentary seats and 31 State Assembly seats. The national vote polled by DAP in 1969 at the parliamentary level was 11.9 per cent.
The ups and downs the DAP faced in the past seven general elections in could be seen by the following tabulations:
Year Parl State Parl State of nation votes (Par)
1974 46 120 9 23 18.3
1978 53 127 16 25 19.1
1982 63 131 9 12 19.6
1986 64 127 24 37 21.1
1990 57 87 20 46 17.6
1995 50 103 9 11 12.1
Our worst electoral setback was in the 1995 general election when we won only nine Parliamentary seats (now reduced to 8 as a result of the unfair and undemocratic disqualification of DAP MPs in Bukit Bintang and Kota Melaka constituencies although we won the Teluk Intan seat in a by-election) when the national vote we polled fell precariously near our first general election in 1969. But we fared worse than in 1969. In terms of state assembly representation, the 1995 general election was the worst of all the seven general elections, slashed to 11 as compared to the two bad elections in 1974 and 1982, when the DAP secured 9 Parliamentary seats but 23 state assembly seats in 1974 and 12 state assembly seats in 1982.
What is in store for the DAP in the coming general elections.
There have been very divergent prognosis of the outcome of the next general election, ranging from one end of the spectrum to the opposite end.
Basically, the three important prognosis are:
At present, I do not see the toppling of the Barisan Nasional from power in the national government as a realistic possibility. What is possible - something which had never been achieved in the past 42 years - is the end of the two-thirds parliamentary majority of the Barisan Nasional in the next general elections, which will have the effect like the opening of the floodgates to unleash new forces and new energies towards greater democratisation and openness and accountability of government, leading to a vibrant democratic polity and civil society.
In fact, I worry that the pursuit of the unrealistic goal of toppling the Barisan Nasional from power (not that I do not want to see its fall) may redound to the benefit of the BN - by defeating the thinkable and feasible goal of denying the Barisan Nasional its traditional two-thirds majority as a result of a backlash with voters going back to save Barisan Nasional from being toppled, preserving even its two-thirds parliamentary majority.
This may be a paradox.
I believe that full co-operation among the Opposition parties can succeed in achieving the historic result of denying the Barisan Nasional its two-thirds majority, to smash the mould of Barisan Nasional political hegemony and usher Malaysia into the new millennium of a New Malaysia, starting with a more balanced and pluralistic distribution of political power which allows justice, freedom, democracy and good governance a chance to take root and flower.
On the other hand, if Opposition parties attempt to over-reach themselves and form an united Opposition Front to topple the Barisan Nasional from power, we will not only fail in our goal but even miss the historic opportunity to deny the Barisan Nasional its traditional two-thirds parliamentary majority to mark the beginning of its end.
The end of its traditional and uninterrupted two-thirds parliamentary majority will be a clear warning and signal that without the restoration and institution of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance, the mandate for power of the Barisan Nasional will end in the subsequent general election whether in 2,004 or 2,005.
Some of the pronouncements at this weekendís PAS Muktamar, for instance, has caused considerable concern and disquiet from traditionally strong opposition ground, which reinforces my view that there are significant segments of the voters, though mostly non-Malays but do not preclude Malay voters, who may be prepared to vote for PAS if the objective is to advance justice, freedom, democracy and good governance by denying Barisan Nasional two-thirds majority but not if the objective is to topple the Barisan Nasional from power - when the Islamic state issue becomes a key and critical question.
I think PAS leaders have not been well advised if they believe that the Islamic state is not a big issue in the Chinese or non-Malay community.
I commend PAS leaders for their position that the immediate issues facing
the country and people, including the coming general election, is not about
the Islamic state, but how justice, freedom, democracy and good governance
can be restored or instituted in the country and their preparedness to
work with the DAP which has made clear that our position that an Islamic
state is unsuitable for a plural society like Malaysia remain unchanged.
However, PAS leaders should realise that they are ensuring that the Islamic state issue become a central question in the coming election when they talk about toppling the Barisan Nasional government and postulate that a PAS leader could become the next Prime Minister.
PAS leaders should realise that the issue of Islamic State has the potency of becoming the most important question if the general elections is fought on the basis of toppling the Barisan Nasional from power, and unless the PAS leaders can convince not only non-Malay but also Malay voters on the issue of Islamic State, this will ensure not only Barisan Nasionalís return to power but the preservation of its two-thirds majority! It will be another 10 or 15 years before the Barisan Nasional mould of political hegemony could be broken again to allow the flowering of democracy and civil society.
This is why I am suggesting a two-step programme to topple Barisan Nasional from power - the denial of the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority in the coming general election and its toppling from power in the subsequent general election four or five years later - a time span of five to six years from now!
Under this scenario of denying the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority in the coming election, I believe the DAP can look forward to our best electoral results in party history - aiming to win from 25 to 30 Parliamentary seats as our contribution to an Opposition total of 75 - 80 seats to provide a healthy and stable check and balance to the Barisan Nasional government.