On May 5, the opposition Democratic Action Party became the second-largest political party in Malaysia, drubbing its main rival for Chinese affections, the Malaysian Chinese Association and taking 38 seats in Parliament. The election made the DAP, as the party is known, a powerhouse in Malaysian politics, with the legitimate claim to represent the country's Chinese, who make up 24.9 percent of the country's population.
Today, however, the 48-year-old DAP's status is in doubt amid allegations that the government, headed by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, has set out to put the party out of business in the wake of its electoral success.
Malaysia's Registrar of Societies on Monday invalidated the party's Dec. 15, 2012 central executive committee election over alleged intraparty irregularities during its annual general meeting after two DAP members, the vice chairman and secretary of a local branch, lodged reports in January, saying the party's election results had been manipulated to exclude them.
Tellingly, the Home Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, announced the decision against the DAP rather than waiting for the Registry of Societies to deliver a formal letter. The letter was delivered Thursday, containing the directive to hold fresh party elections.
In any case, the party's executive committee has now been ruled illegal and a new election of executive committee members must be held within a specified period, probably 30 to 60 days, according to the registry. The party, however, is refusing to hold a new election, meaning the registry could put the party out of business.
The facts appear up for grabs. Certainly the DAP appears to have made an embarrassing error in the election.
"It's their own members who took out the complaints," said the head of a think tank in Kuala Lumpur. "It was a huge embarrassment to them during the election. This is registry of societies business, it has nothing to do with anybody. The DAP, as paranoid as they are, say they are under siege."
The DAP strategist Chin Tong acknowledged in an interview that the party had erred in computing results of the election, but that it had rectified the mistake. In any case, it is questionable why the action is being taken now. Although the agency investigated the situation earlier this year and issued a letter that put the validity of the central executive committee in doubt, in the end it cleared the party for the general election. After first refusing to allow the DAP to use its "rocket" symbol on election materials, the registry relented and allowed its use.Read more.