The Democratic Action Party, or DAP (Malaysian: Parti Tindakan Demokratik) is a secular, multi-racial, social democratic Malaysian political party.[1] Though its core constituency consists of Malaysian Chinese, it also receives support from the Malaysian Indians and Malays. The party's strongholds are in the states of Penang, Perak and Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. The DAP gained prominence for its advocacy of the "Malaysian Malaysia" concept. It is one of the three major opposition parties in Malaysia, along with the PKR and PAS, that are seen as electable alternatives to the Barisan Nasional coalition of parties. It is one of the component parties of Pakatan Rakyat (or known as People's Alliance).



The DAP was originally the Malaysian branch of the Singapore People's Action Party (PAP). However, Singapore seceded from the federation in 1965, just two years after the territories merged. Most of the Malaysian PAP members decided to remain with the original party, but those that decided to continue the party, including future President of Singapore Devan Nair, stayed in Malaysia to form the DAP in October 1965.[2] The party formally registered itself as a democratic socialist party on March 18, 1966.[3] In the August of that year, the official party organ, The Rocket, was first published. At the first DAP National Congress held in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur on July 29, 1967, the DAP declared itself to be "irrevocably committed to the ideal of a free, democratic and socialist Malaysia, based on the principles of racial and religious equality, social and economic justice, and founded on the institution of parliamentary democracy".[4]

In October that year, the DAP joined 55 other socialist parties belonging to the Socialist International (SI) at the SI International Conference in Zurich, Switzerland.[4]

Devan Nair, who founded the DAP, later returned to Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew, then Prime Minister of Singapore under the PAP, explained in 1981 that "the Cabinet decided that Singapore-Malaysia relations would always be bedevilled if Devan Nair remained a DAP leader. I persuaded him to come back."[2]

Early electoral successes and related events

The DAP contested a general election for the first time in 1969. In line with their commitment to equality, the DAP originally campaigned against Bumiputra privileges, such as those afforded to them by Article 153 of the Constitution. They also continued Lee Kuan Yew's campaign for a Malaysian Malaysia, the idea of which was originally conveyed by Lee in Parliament: "Malaysia — to whom does it belong? To Malaysians. But who are Malaysians? I hope I am, Mr Speaker, Sir. But sometimes, sitting in this chamber, I doubt whether I am allowed to be a Malaysian."[5]

The DAP went on to win 13 Parliamentary seats and 31 State Assembly seats, with 11.9% of all valid votes that were cast in the election; the Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (Gerakan) which campaigned on a similar platform also made major gains. The 1969 election marked the biggest gains ever made by an opposition party in Malaysia (before 2008), and came close to seeing the ruling Alliance toppled from power. However, a march made by the DAP along with Gerakan as part of the opposition team led to violence, and resulted in what was euphemistically termed the May 13 Incident. Parliament was suspended for two years, and the executive branch of the government assumed power.[6]

When Parliament reconvened, it passed pieces of legislation such as the Sedition Act that illegalised discussion of repealing certain portions of the Constitution. Most of these concerned Bumiputra privileges, such as Article 153. The DAP and the People's Progressive Party (PPP) were the only parties that voted against the Act, which passed by a vote of 125 to 17.[7]

After the 1969 election, the DAP would never come close to repeating its past successes for the next 38 years. Although the DAP remained a major opposition party, the ruling coalition had clung solidly to its two-thirds parliamentary majority. The DAP, however, continued campaigning on its platform of abolishing the Bumiputra privileges, giving equal rights for all Malaysians regardless of race and establishing a democratic socialist state in Malaysia.

During the Mahathir administration in 1987, several DAP leaders, including Parliamentary Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang, were detained by the government without trial during Operation Lalang, under the accusation of being a national security threat. It is widely believed they were arrested for protesting the expansion of the New Economic Policy (NEP).[8]

Recent history

In 1995, the party ran what has become widely known as the "Robocop" campaign to wrest Penang from the BN. Despite the hype, the campaign was a failure as the party only won one state and three parliamentary seats.[9]

Following the ousting of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in September 1998, DAP co-founded the Barisan Alternatif coalition along with PAS and the newly formed Keadilan. However, the coalition did not work out very well for the DAP, with two of its top leaders, Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh losing their Parliamentary seats in the 1999 election; the DAP managed to win only 5% (10 out of 193) of the seats in Parliament. PAS became the leading opposition party in Parliament. It left the coalition in 2001 due to a disagreement with PAS over the issue of an Islamic state.[10][11]

In the 2004 elections, the DAP managed to capture 12 seats in Parliament, while PAS and Keadilan suffered major setbacks, with PAS losing 20 of the 27 seats it had held after the 1999 elections. The eventual outcome saw Lim Kit Siang, who had been elected in his constituency of Ipoh Timur with a majority of 10,000 votes, formally elected as the leader of the opposition in Parliament, a post he had lost to the president of PAS in 1999.[12]

In the 2006 Sarawak State Elections, the Democratic Action Party won 6 of the 12 seats it contested and narrowly lost three other seats with small majorities. This is the party best showing ever in the history of Sarawak state elections since 1979.

In the 2008 elections, the DAP won 13% (28 out of 222) of the seats in Parliament, with PAS and Keadilan making substantial gains as well with 23 seats and 31 seats respectively. In total, the taking of 82 seats (37%) by the opposition to Barisan Nasional's 140 seats (63%), makes it the best performance in Malaysian history by the opposition, and denies Barisan Nasional the two-thirds majority required to make constitutional changes in the House.[13] DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang expressed surprise at the election results but declares it to be the true power of the voice of the Malaysian people for the leaders of the country to hear them.[14] In addition, DAP, having secured all its contested seats in the state of Penang, formed the Penang state government with its alliance partners Keadilan and PAS, the Chief Minister being DAP's Lim Guan Eng.[15]

As the new Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng announced to waive all summonses issued by the Penang Municipal Council and Seberang Perai Municipal Council involving hawker licences and parking offences issued before March 2008 and pledged to review the NEP without disregarding Malay rights. This review proposal has been supported by PKR leader Anwar .[citation needed]

Party symbol and its meaning

The symbol or logo of the DAP (see above) is the rocket, which it has used since the 1969 general election. Its components are symbolised as follows:

  • The red rocket symbolises the Party's aspiration for a modern, dynamic and progressive society
  • The four rocket boosters represent the support and drive given to the Party objectives by the three major ethnicities (Malay, Chinese, Asian Indian) and others
  • The blue circle stands for the unity of the multi-racial people of Malaysia
  • The white background stands for purity and incorruptibility

Party members and leadership structure

Notable party members include the parliamentarians listed below. A number of them maintain active blogs containing writings on contemporary political, social and economic issues in Malaysia in general, or on specific issues involving their constituencies or policy area of interest.[16] Videos of DAP members of parliament debating in the Dewan Rakyat are also available.

DAP Members of the 12th Parliament of Malaysia (Dewan Rakyat)

DAP currently has 29 MPs.

DAP members in the Dewan Negara (Senate)

Leadership of the DAP

The leadership of the Democratic Action Party are elected through party delegates in national level. There will only be 20 CEC positions available for grabs while the remaining positions will be appointed by the new Central Executive Committees. The latest leadership structure could be found below.[17]


Lim Guan Eng was unable to contest the 2004 general election due to specific legal requirements not being met at nomination time.[18] In the recent 12th Malaysian general elections, Lim made a political comeback and led the DAP to a clean sweep of all 19 Penang state seats it contested. Lim was subsequently appointed as the Chief Minister of the State of Penang.

Other prominent members include ex-party member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, who was previously a four-term MP for Bukit Bintang until 1990.,[19] and Wan Hamidi Hamid, a news journalist who is currently a columnist with the online news website The Malaysian Insider.[20]

See also

Notes and references

  1. DAP Website: About Us: The Party. Retrieved Feb. 12, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mesenas, Clement & Lee, Ching Wern (Dec. 8, 2005). "Workers' champion, reluctant President". TODAYonline.
  3. Goh, Cheng Teik (1994). Malaysia: Beyond Communal Politics, p. 51. Pelanduk Publications. ISBN 967-978-475-4.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Democratic Action Party Lim Kit Siang 11th General Election Malaysia". Retrieved Nov. 7, 2005.
  5. Ooi, Jeff (2005). "Perils of the sitting duck". Retrieved November 11, 2005.
  6. Goh, pp. 19, 39.
  7. Means, Gordon P. (1991). Malaysian Politics: The Second Generation, pp. 14, 15. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-588988-6.
  8. Lim, Kit Siang (2005). "Hisham – gonna say sorry for UMNO Youth keris episodes?". Retrieved November 11, 2005.
  9. "Boh kian dan Chief Minister with power". Utusan Malaysia. February 15, 2010.
  10. Netto, Anil (Dec. 10, 1999). "A wake-up call for ho-hum Malaysian politics". Asia Times.
  11. Kamarudin, Raja Petra (June 6, 2005). "The crossroads for PAS: whereto from here?". Malaysia Today.
  12. "Malaysia Election 2004". (Apr. 5, 2004). The Star (Malaysia).
  13. The Star Online. "MALAYSIA DECIDES 2008 > General Election 2008 Results". Retrieved March 9, 2008.
  14. The Star Online. "MDAP leaders also surprised". Retrieved March 9, 2008.
  15. New Strait Times. 2008. Election 2008 Results: Lim Guan Eng is next Penang CM, promises fair & just administration. Retrieved Mar. 12, 2008.
  16. DAP leaders' blogs. Retrieved Feb. 12, 2008.
  17. DAP Leadership Structure. Retrieved Oct. 12, 2008.
  18. "Lim Guan Eng released but his civil rights remain curtailed". Retrieved Feb. 8, 2006.
  19. Lee, R. 2008. "Tussle for Bukit Bintang hots up". The New Strait Times, 1 Feb. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  20. The Star. 2008. "Journalist may become CM's political sec" The Star, 4 May. Retrieved Feb 23, 2008.
  • James Chin. The Sarawak Chinese Voters and their support for the Democratic Action Party (DAP), Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 34 , No. 2, 1996, pp 387–401
  • James Chin. The Malaysian Chinese Dilemma: The Never Ending Policy (NEP), Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies, Vol 3, 2009

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