Thursday, August 02, 2007

Jeff Ooi - The challenge for the DAP

The hottest topic in the Malaysian blogosphere is the question of Jeff Ooi becoming a politician, a case confirmed by malaysiakini recently.

An issue raised has been how the DAP grassroots (not the party’s top leaders) would view Jeff’s parachuted entry into immediate consideration – c’mon, let’s call a spade a spade and cancel that word ‘consideration’ – selection as a party candidate for the coming general election.

I have partly commented on this issue in the blog of Susan Loone, my PABS co-founder.

A political party such as the DAP obviously looks for high profile personalities to stand as candidates, to attract voters. It’s not an unusual practice throughout the world. But such parachuted recruits have been much to the chagrin of the mud-sloggers, those who struggle their way up the branch ladder, sometimes only after years of dedicated hard work and sacrifices.

Invariably some of the grassroots, especially those who have political aspirations of their own, will feel bypassed, jilted, or even betrayed.

On theory, a party has a greater chance of winning a seat if its candidate is high profile and well liked - these two qualities are not automatically synonymous. But of course the public wants to know whether the candidate is clean and perceived as being able to deliver.

Does Jeff Ooi satisfy these qualities? He is certainly well known in the online world (through malaysiakini) and of course the Malaysian blogosphere as a blogger big on public governance, consumerism and media affairs.

On the question of whether he is well liked would depend on his visitors’ perception. A blogger is never that conceited as to imagine that people visit his/her site because they like him/her.

Jeff does have an abrasive style as a blogger but that’s his personality and his concerns with, for example, ‘hijackers’, visitors who attempt to change the thread of discussion to fit a covert agenda. However, as a politician, he cannot afford that anymore if he wants to be seen as the people’s man. But it’s up to him, and whether he can adapt quickly to the real world of ‘cause and effect’ where he can’t just delete an adverse public perception or admonish an aggressive or uncooperative member of the voting public.

But is Jeff well- known by the ordinary non-Internet savvy public, people like my mum, aunts and their mahjong kakis? That will be the challenge for Jeff and the DAP, to translate the reputation of a well known blogger into an image of that nice capable bloke from the Rocket.

Back to those poor dedicated mud-sloggers - a party is also aware that to merely reward the old faithful’s with selection as election candidates may be good for party morale but not necessarily brilliant for winning as many seats as possible.

Winning as many seats as possible is not just to make an impact in parliament but necessary to convey an image to the public as a credible party to the public - basically to show it’s not a pathetic one or two seat party, which is important for future elections.

I can only point to the PKR and PPP as poor examples of this perception. At least the PPP can sulk behind the BN sarong, though we must ask for how long more?

The downside of selecting only parachuted high profile personalities like Jeff or that PKR bloke for the Ijok by-election is that it would, must antagonise long time party faithful’s, especially those ambitious ones - ask Nallakaruppan.

The BN has the remedy of rewarding ’selection-jilted’ party faithful’s with choice appointments, while our opposition leaders can only offer consoling words, which may sometimes be not enough. And internal sabotaging would occur, which if not remedied well could see the disintegration of a party - oh, do you guys any party in mind as an example of this?

‘Tis a difficult juggling act for the leaders to strike a happy balance between their elite airborne troops and their less glamorous infantry in their combat operations. Yes, it’s a tough call for the party generals.

Jeff Ooi - right move from Gerakan to DAP?


  1. Brader,

    Jeff Ooi should had made his stand to join DAP long time ago,not when the GE is around the corner. As far as I am concern he is another katak who seized the opportunity to be a YB as DAP calon parachute,while DAP itself has many outstanding candidate to choose from.My one cent bet his road to parliment is gonna be a difficult one. You know lah why..ask uncle Kit he has the answer.


  2. Parachutes like Jeff sometimes do succeed if they are able to overcome resentment by the mudsloggers and can convince the voters that they are able to deliver.
    But history is much against them.
    The Dap leadership and more so Jeff himself have much to do in he days ahead to convince the voters that Jeff can deliver at the end of the day.
    Oh yes like your analysis of Jeff's entry.

  3. Loyal mudsloggers need to be appreciated, but they are not always the best candidates for elections. Voters, especially in urban areas, look for someone who can work with ordinary folks on their everyday problems, but also want someone with "Ren Chai". The educated voters, especially, don't really buy the traditional DAP grassroots type activist.

  4. I hope Jeff will read my blogger friend DR Hsu's post : this is how politics is played.

    It will also serve him well if he can avoid argument with the grand old man . History always tend to repeat itself.

    Avoid the path taken by Dr Kua Kia Song, Lee Ban Chen. Fan Yew Teng.

    A simple rule: He who stands behind the prince will be rewarded.