On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

In the thick of wooing the Chinese

Out of the 192 seats in Parliament, 144 seats are in the
peninsula. Of the seats in the peninsula, 
more than 70% are Malay-majority 
and over 20% non-Malay majority. 
The rest are considered racially mixed.

As the fractious opposition parties attempt to put up an opposition  front, it has been reported that the  DAP would contest in non-Malay  constituencies.

PAS, which has declared it wants  to
capture Perlis, Terengganu,  Kedah and
Pahang, will focus on  the Malay seats
while Keadilan will  contest in racially
mixed seats.

In the tussle for the Malay votes,  the
issues are simply narrowed  down to
justice for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the right to dissent  and the principle of accountability.

The voters will choose the Barisan for continued economic development and
political stability for  the

In the predominantly Chinese areas, the DAP is banking on issues  relating to the jailing of former  Kota Melaka MP Lim Guan Eng.

It is uncertain to what degree the  Anwar
issue will be translated into  votes
among the Chinese voters but  they are
certainly less passionate  than their
Malay brethren.

Another factor is how  the opposition
front will take shape and  what their
manifesto and programmes will be.

It will not hurt the DAP to work  with
Keadilan which is a lot more  appealing
to Chinese voters than  PAS.

Keadilan president Datin Seri Dr  Wan
Azizah Wan Ismail has been a  crowd
puller at DAP ceramahs and  certainly
issues like justice transcend race and religion.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar, the Keadilan deputy president, also enjoys a  following among the middle-class  in urban areas.

The only obstacle for Keadilan  and DAP
will be to convince the  Chinese voters
that reformasi is not  about violent
street demonstrations.

Not many are likely to be convinced that Keadilan is not involved in the

Keadilan's greatest mistake  would be to
encourage its supporters to take to the streets with its  continuous emphasis that peaceful  assembly is fine.

Even the best organised gatherings with the best intentions can  turn ugly if mob behaviour takes  over.

And in multi-racial Malaysia, the 
situation is more explosive. It is not 
simply a question of the right to 

Opposition leaders cannot just 
dissociate themselves from their 
supporters when such demonstrations turn ugly.

To win over the Chinese votes,  Keadilan
needs to go further.  How  different is it from Umno with a  similar affirmative action programme  a point which the DAP  had consistently challenged in its  Malaysian Malaysia programme?

If Keadilan can provide convincing answers to the community, it  would have scored substantial  gains even before the first vote is  cast.

Still, it would be politically suicidal if Chinese-based Barisan  component parties like the MCA  and Gerakan were to dismiss the  Keadilan-DAP tie-up.

There are many unknown probables in Malaysian politics these  days. Many of the MPs from the  two parties are also incumbents in  the mixed constituencies where the  combination of Malay, Chinese and  Indian votes are almost equal.

No one is sure how the Malays,  outside
the federal capital, will cast  their
votes. After all, the scenario  in the
coming general election is  entirely

In the quest for the Chinese  votes, the
biggest hurdle for Keadilan is its cooperation with PAS,  which has openly stated its objective of
setting up an Islamic state.

Dr Wan Azizah has so far not  stated her
stand on the Islamic  state but it will
be a question which  she will eventually
have to answer.

The DAP has repeatedly said it  does not
want an Islamic state but  by appearing
at PAS ceramahs, it  has taken a

But the biggest obstacle for the  DAP to
win Chinese votes is the  stature of
Prime Minister Datuk  Seri Dr Mahathir
Mohamad among  the Chinese voters.

To the community, Dr Mahathir  represents
stability. His announcement on Thursday that Malaysia is  expected to record a stronger gross  domestic product (GDP) growth of  5% next year, barring any major  economic catastrophe, pushed the  KLSE index up the next day.

And if the community hears a  People's
Budget in October, it will  make the job
of the opposition  much harder.

Dr Mahathir's liberal stance in  business
and education has been  well appreciated
by the community.

For the MCA and Gerakan, their  job would
be to remind the community of the reality of the numbers  game.

They are almost sure to tell the 
community that they should not do 
what the Kadazandusuns had done 
in the recent Sabah state election.

In the state polls, the community  voted
their leaders out of the state 

The result was the community  lost their
chief minister Tan Sri  Bernard Dompok
and representation in government.

With most of the 48 parliamentary seats in Sabah and Sarawak likely to be
retained by the Barisan, the  fight will
be in the peninsula for  the remaining

PAS is not only convinced it can  deny
the Barisan its two-thirds majority but believes it is capable of  forming the next federal government by
winning more than 96  seats.

To do that, PAS will have to convince all communities that it is a  relevant party in multi-ethnic and  multi-religious Malaysia.