PETALING JAYA: MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng must be more honest and open with themselves when they face off in the much-anticipated debate tomorrow, analysts say.
They said that both Chua and Lim, who is also Penang Chief Minister, would likely skirt around touchy issues in the current political climate.
“What I would like to see is what we are not likely to see – honesty on the part of both politicians,” said political scientist Ong Kian Ming of UCSI University.
He said that an uncomfortable truth, for both parties, is how much bigger and more powerful DAP is within Pakatan Rakyat compared to MCA in the Barisan Nasional (BN).
“MCA, the second largest party in BN, is obviously constrained because it is (playing) second fiddle to Umno. The reality is that DAP has more MPs and state assembly representatives than MCA.
“Given the DAP presence in Sabah and Sarawak, it now has 29 MPs and 83 assemblymen whereas MCA has 15 MPs and 32 state representativess,” Ong said.
“Chua would not like to acknowledge it (DAP’s political strength), but at the same time, Guan Eng may not want to publicly admit that the more powerful DAP is, the more afraid Malay voters are to support Pakatan,” he added.
Ong said DAP, which is likely to continue growing, is now doing all it can to shed its “Chinese chauvinist” image, though he noted that MCA is not harping on this issue as it is Chinese-based itself.
However, he said that the debate was something that everyone wants to see and is an “important part of the normalisation of the democratic process in Malaysia”.
“What people want is more exchanges of ideas during debates between our key national leaders. The Malaysian political landscape is becoming increasingly competitive. So this is good,” he said.
Ong also said that he expects Chua to focus more on the political impact of the Chinese vote (for or against the BN), while Lim would try not to talk solely about one particular community.
“I think the challenge for Chua is to convince the audience, who will primarily be Chinese, that MCA is still relevant to them. For Lim, his challenge would be to not speak only about the Chinese community,” he said.
Ong said that it remains to be seen what the audience will take away from the debate, though it may not necessarily bring about any solid outcome.
“Debates are about winning over votes, but hopefully by trying to argue from a certain political position, we may have something substantial which would have some bearing on policies. And people want them (Chua and Lim) to be accountable for what they say during the debate,” Ong said.
Meanwhile, political observer Khoo Kay Peng said that both MCA and DAP must face their fears and openly talk about their respective relationships with Umno and PAS.
“They should be talking about how to do away with racial politics and how MCA can represent all Malaysians. And DAP should be talking about its difficulty in managing PAS and its extremist views,” he said.
Khoo also expressed disappointment at the topic of the debate – “Is the two-party system becoming a two-race system?” – saying that “it’s not something you can debate intellectually”.
He said that the topic was “misplaced and will not bring out anything substantial or beneficial,” adding that “race polemics is not going to help” anyone.
“Are they trying to imply that if the Chinese voters were to vote against the government, they would not get any government representation? Like how MCA threatened to stay away from government positions if it does worse than in 2008?” said Khoo, adding that the topic was slanted towards the MCA.
“MCA should be looking forward and should be asking itself why are the Chinese voting against the government. MCA should work towards something the Chinese can accept, even if it is a choice of whether to remain in the BN or move forward.”
“You can’t say it will lead to a two-race system as BN does not enjoy the full support of the Malays and the opposition does not have the full support of the Chinese,” Khoo said.
He said the debate should touch on the economy and how Malaysians should unite with better governance.
The debate, which will be in Mandarin, will take place at the Berjaya Times Square Hotel in Kuala Lumpur from 5pm to 6pm. It will be carried live by Astro AEC.
The debate is part of the forum on “The Chinese at a political crossroads in the next general election” which will be held earlier in the morning.