Kkb By Election Challenges For Dap Ph And The Unity Govt Part 2


 


From Ong Kian Ming
In Part 1, I outlined three possible scenarios for voter turnout and support for the unity government’s DAP candidate in the upcoming Kuala Kubu Baharu by-election, out of which there is only one scenario where the incumbent manages to defend the seat.
At the time of writing, no candidate has been announced by DAP or by Perikatan Nasional (PN). It is likely that Gerakan will be given the opportunity to field a candidate given that the MP for Hulu Selangor, Harumaini Omar, is from PAS and the assemblymen for the other two state seats, Hulu Bernam and Batang Kali, are from PAS and Bersatu respectively.
Gerakan fielded a Chinese candidate, Henry Teoh, in the 2023 state election, and it has been reported that the party has submitted three names as possible candidates, including a Malay candidate.
DAP will be announcing its candidate on April 24.
From a campaigning perspective, it will be far easier for the opposition to attack the track record of the unity government since the 2022 general election. The playbook will not be unfamiliar since we (DAP) used it countless times when we were the opposition campaigning in by-elections.
We would ask the voters to cast a protest vote against the government, knowing that the results would not affect who is in power at the state and federal levels. This would be an opportunity to “teach those in power a lesson” not to take the voters for granted and to “punish” them for their failure to deliver their promises on issues like institutional reform and bringing down the prices of goods and services.
We would point to the impending hikes in diesel and petrol prices as signs that this government doesn’t care about the welfare of the rakyat. In some ways, PN can take the moral high ground by saying that they are not the ones trying to “free” Najib Razak from jail, nor are they trying to rile up racial and religious sentiments by asking for boycotts against the likes of KK Mart.
Despite the hard work which many of my colleagues in government have put in to try to bring about positive change in their ministries, the rhetoric of the opposition will resound among the voters, especially those in Kuala Kubu Baharu, who are not likely to have felt the effects of some of the positive policies delivered by the Madani government.
Of course, the current administration must also take some blame for not having a coherent narrative (especially on the economy), not communicating its narrative coherently and consistently, and not taking proactive action to address certain sensitive issues including “sockgate”.
In addition, the opposition has the advantage of tailoring its attacks to different groups of voters. To the Malay voters, PAS and Bersatu will remind them of some of the statements made by certain DAP leaders in recent months to instigate them not to support the DAP candidate.
To the non-Malay voters, Gerakan will point to the failure to live up to the promises by DAP to deliver change and reforms and to protect the interests of the non-Malays in the current government.
The accusation of DAP being MCA 2.0 could be made even more powerful by the narrative that MCA 1.0 and MCA 2.0 are both part of the unity government! This narrative could resonate more with the younger non-Malay voters who are more likely to be anti-establishment.
One should also not discount the impact of MCA and MIC possibly not campaigning for the DAP candidate since some of the older Chinese and Indian voters in a semi-urban district like Kuala Kubu Baharu would still have some historical ties and affinity with both of these Barisan Nasional (BN) parties.
How then can DAP, Pakatan Harapan (PH) and the unity government conduct a successful campaign to overcome these challenges?
A successful campaign needs to be conducted at two levels: at the local level and at the state or national level.
There are no “ideal” candidates which DAP can field who can be positioned as someone who knows the local issues faced by Kuala Kubu Baharu voters and who is also capable of withstanding the national media scrutiny during a high-profile by-election.
For the record, I do not have any insights into who the top leadership of DAP will likely select as the candidate, although I have my own recommendations which I have expressed to the Selangor DAP leadership.
Servicing the local communities
One of the challenges which the candidate will have to face at the local level is a lack of leadership and servicing in Kuala Kubu Baharu because of the need for its late assemblyman, Lee Kee Hiong, to seek cancer treatment after 2018 which impeded her ability to go to the ground.
To win the trust of and to connect with the local communities in the constituency, which have different interests and needs, the candidate will have to enlist community leaders who are trusted and have good reputations who can be part of his or her team after the by-election, assuming a victory.
Ideally, the candidate will be able to showcase a team comprising possible special officers from the Malay, Chinese, and Indian communities whom they will lead as part of the Kuala Kubu Baharu service centre.
This will be a challenge as many younger and more energetic and dynamic people would want to seek career pathways outside the area rather than work in it as a politician’s special officer. But there are always diamonds in the rough if we look hard enough, especially with the assistance of local DAP and PH leaders.
A solutions manifesto

At the same time, the candidate must be able to articulate a “manifesto” to provide solutions to local issues such as traffic and infrastructure problems and present a “vision” of how to develop Kuala Kubu Baharu as a destination for tourism, light manufacturing, and other economic activities.
The manifesto should be relatively simple, and the candidate must be able to articulate it with specific examples and references which the local population can relate to.
At the state and national level, there needs to be a cohesive narrative to accompany the stream of ministers, deputy ministers and state excos who will be heading to Kuala Kubu Baharu to campaign.
The handing out of electoral “goodies” and the organisation of various government programmes will not be unwelcomed by the local population but make no mistake, it will not necessarily win the by-election for the DAP candidate.
If this was the case, BN would not have lost the by-elections in Lunas in 2000 and in Sibu in 2010, and Umno would not have won the Semenyih by-election in 2019 and MCA would not have won the Tanjung Piai by-election in 2019 campaigning as opposition parties.
What is needed is a more comprehensive value-proposition, not just to the voters of Kuala Kubu Baharu but to the voters of Hulu Selangor, to develop the entire district with the intention of winning back the parliamentary seat as well as the other two state seats in the next election.
In fact, this kind of larger and more comprehensive “manifesto” would be a more responsible way of campaigning during a by-election, even if the benefits would not be immediately felt. It would incentivise political parties to think more strategically and on a longer-term basis based on sustainable policies and plans, rather than focusing on short-term handouts which have been and will continue to be criticised by election watchdog bodies like Bersih (and rightly so).
Economic reinvigoration
The economic reinvigoration of Hulu Selangor based on industrial clusters in nearby Tanjong Malim in Perak and Serendah in Rawang; higher value-added tourism products leveraging on outdoor activities and higher end homestays which can provide higher paying services jobs; the deployment of smart agriculture projects on a smaller scale; the inclusion of the Orang Asli communities in suitable economic activities – all of this will result in longer term development which can be felt by the local population.
This could also lead to more people moving to Hulu Selangor to start businesses and to take up higher paying jobs and perhaps also registering as new voters who will be more likely to support progressive and proactive government policies at the state and national levels.
This kind of campaign requires strategic thinking and action but, in reality, will not be easy to carry out. But even if some of this thinking and action can feature in this campaign, it would be a positive move in making us a more mature and progressive democracy. And more importantly, it would be beneficial to the voters and residents of Kuala Kubu Baharu and Hulu Selangor in the longer run. After all, isn’t this what elections are supposed to be about? - FMT
Ong Kian Ming is the Selangor DAP treasurer.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.


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