Democratic Action Party
The Democratic Action Party, or DAP (Malay: Parti Tindakan Demokratik; Jawi: ڤرتي تيندقن ديموكراتيک, Chinese: 民主行动党, Tamil: ஜனநாயக செயல் கட்சி), is a multi-racial, centre-left Malaysian political party advocating social democracy and secularism, social justice, progressivism, and multi-racialism. One of the four component parties of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government coalition since 2018, it was previously in the opposition for over 50 years.
Mínzhǔ xíngdòng dǎng
|Malay name||Parti Tindakan Demokratik|
ڤرتي تيندقن ديموكراتيک
|Tamil name||ஜனநாயக செயல் கட்சி|
Jaṉanāyaka ceyal kaṭci
|Chairperson||Tan Kok Wai|
|Secretary-General||Lim Guan Eng|
|Parliamentary Leader||Loke Siew Fook|
|Deputy Chairperson||Gobind Singh Deo|
|Vice Chairpersons||Chong Chieng Jen|
Chow Kon Yeow
Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji
|Deputy Secretaries-General||Teresa Kok|
Nga Kor Ming
|Founder||Chen Man Hin|
|Founded||11 October 1965|
|Legalised||18 March 1966|
|Split from||People's Action Party (PAP)|
|Headquarters||Jalan Yew (off Jalan Pudu), 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia|
|Youth wing||DAP Socialist Youth (DAPSY)|
Leader: Lee Chuan How
|Women's wing||Wanita DAP|
Leader: Chong Eng
|National affiliation||Gagasan Rakyat (1990–1996)|
Barisan Alternatif (1999–2004)
Pakatan Rakyat (2008–2015)
Pakatan Harapan (2015–present)
|International affiliation||Progressive Alliance|
|Colours||Red, white, blue|
|Slogan||Malaysian Malaysia and Malaysian First|
|Anthem||Berjuang Untuk Rakyat Malaysia!|
(Fighting for Malaysians!)
7 / 70
(House of Representatives):
42 / 222
|Dewan Undangan Negeri|
109 / 592
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
The party's vision is to establish a peaceful and prosperous social democracy that can unite its disparate races and diverse religions and cultures, based on the Malaysian Malaysia concept of forging a Malaysian race grounded on universal moral values, offering equal access and opportunity, upholding democratic governance and the rule of law, creating wealth and distributing it equitably, and fighting corruption.
The DAP usually draw much of their support from secular and liberal voters with a stable electorate from voters of big cities, coastal regions, professional middle-class, and working class. The party's strongholds are primarily in the urban and semi-urban areas of Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Malacca and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. In the 2018 Malaysian general election, DAP contested in 47 federal constituencies and won 42 seats and 101 out of 104 state seats contested, most under the ticket of its ally People's Justice Party (PKR), representing a win rate of 95%, the highest among the major political parties contesting.
On 11 October 1965, the DAP was formed by former members of the deregistered People's Action Party of Malaysia, including Bangsar Member of Parliament Devan Nair, who later became President of Singapore. The party formally registered itself as a democratic socialist party on 18 March 1966. The ten members of the pro-tem committee were Devan Nair as secretary-general, Chen Man Hin (who won the Seremban state constituency as an independent) as chairman, D. P. Xavier as assistant secretary-general, Goh Hock Guan as vice-chairman, Seeveratnam Sinnathamby (younger brother of Singapore minister S. Rajaratnam) as treasurer and Zain Azahari bin Zainal Abidin, Chin Chan Sung, Michael Khong Chye Huat, Tan Chong Bee and Too Chee Cheong as members.
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 29 July 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".
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. Devan Nair, who was amongst those 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".
Early electoral successes
The DAP contested a general election for the first time in 1969. In line with their commitment to equality, the DAP originally campaigned against Bumiputera 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". 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 13 May Incident. Parliament was suspended for two years, and the executive branch of the government assumed power.
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. 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).
In 1995, the party ran what has become widely known as the "Robocop" campaign to wrest Penang from the Barisan Nasional (BN). Despite the hype, the campaign was a failure as the party only won one state and three parliamentary seats. The strategy backfired when Prime Minister Mahathir, BN leaders and the media criticised Lim Kit Siang as a "robot" and "soulless" person.
Following the ousting of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in September 1998, DAP co-founded the Barisan Alternatif (BA) coalition along with Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) and the newly formed People's Justice Party (PKR). 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.
In the 2004 general election, 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, and Keadilan lost all seats except one returned after a recount. 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.
In the 2006 Sarawak state election, the Democratic Action Party won 6 of the 12 seats it contested and narrowly lost three other seats with small majorities. Up til then it was the party's best showing ever in the history of Sarawak's state elections since 1979.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) was formed in 2008 by DAP, PKR and PAS. In the 2008 general election, the DAP won 13% (28 out of 222) of the seats in the Dewan Rakyat, with PAS and PKR 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 denied Barisan Nasional the two-thirds majority required to make constitutional changes in the Dewan Rakyat. DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang expressed surprise at the election results but declared it to be the true power of the voice of the Malaysian people for the leaders of the country to hear them. In addition, DAP, having secured all its contested seats in the state of Penang, formed the Penang state government with its alliance partners PKR and PAS, the Chief Minister being DAP's Lim Guan Eng, son of Lim Kit Siang.
In the 2011 Sarawak state election, DAP furthered its gains from the previous election, winning 12 out of the 70 state assembly seats, with PR winning a total of 15 state seats and 41% of the popular vote. The PR's success was further enhanced in the 2013 general election when DAP went on to win 17% (38 out of 222) of the seats in the Dewan Rakyat and the PR coalition won the popular vote, giving the BN government its worst election showing since independence. In 2015, the PR alliance broke up after a PAS Muktamar (General Assembly) motion unanimously approved the breaking of ties with DAP due to disagreements over PAS's decision to propose a private member's bill to implement "hudud" (Islamic penal code). Following PAS's decision to cut ties with DAP, DAP announced that PR had "ceased to exist".
On 22 September 2015, Pakatan Harapan (PH) was formed by DAP, PKR and National Trust Party (AMANAH) to succeed PR. In the 2016 Sarawak state election, DAP lost its gains from the previous election, retained only 7 out of the 82 state assembly seats, with PH retained only a total of 10 state seats and 29.43% of the popular vote. On 12 February 2017, Kota Melaka MP, Sim Tong Him along with three other DAP state assemblymen from Melaka namely Goh (Duyong), Lim Jack Wong (Bachang), and Chin Choong Seong (Kesidang) announced their resignation from the party to be Independent, citing lack of trust in the party leadership. On 14 March 2017, PPBM officially joined PH as a member party. This made the coalition parties increase to four, where they competed in the 2018 general election against the BN coalition. During the election, PH achieved simple majority in Parliament when the coalition has secured 113 seats and finally able to form a new federal government through an early pact signed with Sabah Heritage Party (WARISAN). DAP won 42 seats out of the 47 seats it contested, making it the second-highest number of seats in PH behind PKR with 47 seats. Together with other coalition members, Lim Guan Eng and his peers took on ministerial roles in the newly formed cabinet. Lim became the Minister of Finance of the current ruling government when Mahathir announced the initial 10 minister portfolio holders. He subsequently became the first Malaysian Chinese to hold the post in 44 years since Tun Tan Siew Sin of Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), who served from 1959 until 1974. Loke Siew Fook replaced Lim Kit Siang as DAP parliamentary leader on 11 July 2018 for the 14th Dewan Rakyat session.
The majority of DAP's party membership is of ethnic-Chinese heritage, with most elected positions within the party being held by Chinese members. DAP only gained its first native Sabahan (Kadazandusun) legislator in the 2013 general election, Edwin Jack Bosi who sat in Sabah State Legislative Assembly. The party's first Malay member of parliament, Ahmad Nor won his seat in the 1990 election followed by Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz who won his seat in the 2013 election but did not defend it in 2018 due to health concerns. Zairil Khir Johari is the party's only Chinese-Malay representative in parliament. The lack of ethnic diversity within the party has led to DAP being viewed as a "racist" party in that it is exclusively concerned with the issues of the Chinese community by Malays.
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:
In 2008, DAP initially introduced "Rocket Kid", a rocket as the party's official mascot during the 12th Malaysian general election. This was then changed to Ubah bird, a hornbill which was designed by Ooi Leng Hang and was launched during the Sarawak state election in 2011 and also used as part of their political campaigning during the 13th Malaysian general election in 2013. DAP had adopted this bird as a symbol for change both for its unique characteristics, hardiness and representation of the unity of both East Malaysia and West Malaysia into a Malaysian nation. Its merchandise such as plush toys, buttons and car stickers were very well received by the public. The idea of the mascot came from Sarawak DAP Secretary, Chong Chieng Jen, who felt a mascot would boost the spirit of the people. The name "Ubah", which means "change" in Malay, is in line with the party's aspirations in changing the ruling party of the Malaysian federal government. In addition to its original Sarawak Iban costume, "Ubah" now comes in a Malay costume for Hari Raya, Indian costume for Deepavali, Chinese costume for Chinese New Year, Santa Claus costume for Christmas, and a Superman costume that depicts the power of the people. On 13 July 2013, a gigantic float known as the "Ubah Inflatable Bird (Water Ubah)" was officially launched at IJM Promenade, Jelutong, Penang by DAP Secretary General Lim Guan Eng.
DAP's official party anthem is Berjuang Untuk Rakyat Malaysia (Fighting for Malaysians).
Other than the official party anthem, DAP has also unveiled several theme songs and music videos mostly with an Ubah theme such as "Ubah" with over 800,000 views, 明天 with over 400,000 views and "Ubah Rocket Style" with over 100,000 views, which is a parody of the viral YouTube hit "Gangnam Style".
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.
List of the Leaders of the Democratic Action Party (1966–present)
Below are the lists of various leaders' post for every term.
List of Life Advisor
List of Chairmen
List of Secretaries-General (Leader of the party)
List of Acting Secretaries-General (Acting leader of the party)
Note: Acting Secretary-General appointed when Secretary-General is not in office. Lim Kit Siang was elected as Secretary-general in October 1969 while he was detained under ISA and Fan Yew Teng was Acting Secretary-General. Chong Eng took over Kerk Kim Hock for a few months while the latter sought treatment for rectal cancer. M. Kulasegaran was Acting Secretary-General after Kerk Kim Hock lost his seat and stepped down before Lim Guan Eng became Secretary-General after a five-year ban starting from 25 August 1999 when he was released from prison.
List of Chairman of the Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Note: Chairman of the Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission is a newly created position on 2004 when Lim Kit Siang refused to be re-elected as Chairman of DAP.
List of Parliamentary Leaders
Dewan Negara (Senate)
- His Majesty's appointee:
- Penang State Legislative Assembly:
- Lim Hui Ying
- Perak State Legislative Assembly:
- Nga Hock Cheh
- Selangor State Legislative Assembly:
- Suresh Singh
- Negeri Sembilan State Legislative Assembly:
- Kesavadas A. Achyuthan Nair
Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives)
Members of Parliament of the 14th Malaysian Parliament
DAP has 42 members in the House of Representatives.
Dewan Undangan Negeri (State Legislative Assembly)
Malaysian State Assembly Representatives
General election results
|Election||Total seats won||Seats contested||Total votes||Share of votes||Outcome of election||Election leader|
1 / 144
|11||42,130||2.0%||Lee Kuan Yew|
13 / 144
|24||286,606||12.1%||Goh Hock Guan|
9 / 144
|46||387,845||18.3%||Lim Kit Siang|
16 / 154
|53||664,433||19.1%||Lim Kit Siang|
9 / 154
|63||815,473||19.6%||Lim Kit Siang|
24 / 154
|64||968,009||21.0%||Lim Kit Siang|
20 / 180
|Lim Kit Siang|
9 / 192
|Lim Kit Siang|
10 / 193
|Lim Kit Siang|
12 / 219
|44||687,340||9.9%||Kerk Kim Hock (Secretary-general)|
Lim Kit Siang (Chairman, Central Policy
& Strategic Planning Commission)
28 / 222
|Lim Guan Eng (Secretary-general)|
Lim Kit Siang (Parliamentary Leader)
38 / 222
|Lim Guan Eng (Secretary-general)|
Lim Kit Siang (Parliamentary Leader)
42 / 222
|Lim Guan Eng (Secretary-general)|
Lim Kit Siang (Parliamentary Leader)
State election results
Allegations of racism and chauvinism
Despite constant rebuttals by party leaders, DAP has been depicted by their political opponents as a party that favours the Malaysian Chinese minority above others. This allegation of racial chauvinism culminated in a two-piece television program broadcast on government-controlled TV channel RTM entitled "Bahaya Cauvinisme". The program forced then party leader Lim Kit Siang to issue a formal media statement to counter the allegations.
On 15 November 2011, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the Malaysian Minister for Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism, accused DAP's publicity chief, Tony Pua of racism for making repeated attacks against the Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia, a government initiative to supply cheap retail products to Malaysian consumers. Tony Pua was criticised for singling out Kedai Rakyat 1 Malaysia, whose suppliers to the store generally come from the Malaysian Bumiputra community, and for not investigating the quality of products supplied by Malaysian-Chinese suppliers or making similar accusations against independent Malaysian-Chinese stores.
2012 party election controversy
At the DAP election in December 2012, Vincent Wu, who was initially declared to have secured the sixth spot with 1,202 votes, dropped to 26th place because he had actually secured only 669. Zairil Khir Johari was elected to the central executive committee (CEC) with 803 votes to secure the 20th spot. The glitch, reportedly because of a vote tabulation error due to the copy-and-paste method in Microsoft Excel, had raised suspicion.
DAP admitted the counting error after discovering the mistake. The DAP election fiasco had caused unease among party members and led to protests to the Registrar of Societies (RoS). Two dissatisfied life members of the DAP then lodged reports with the RoS on the party elections following the revelations.
Following the report the RoS had informed DAP of the dispute by its members and in turn as provided for under Section 3A of the Societies Act 1966 did recognise the office-bearers of the committee formed in the party elections on 15 December 2012, the point of contention.
GE-13 logo issue
DAP chairperson Karpal Singh said DAP will contest under the PAS logo for the Peninsula and PKR logo in Sabah and Sarawak in the 13th general election, following the Registrar of Societies' (RoS) failure to respond on the withdrawal letter of RoS informing that it does not recognise the party's top leadership line-up. DAP had appealed to the RoS to withdraw its letter to suspend the party's existing central executive committee (CEC) but the department was silent on the matter.
On 19 April 2013, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng informed all its 51 parliament and 103 state candidates to use the rocket symbol first during nomination tomorrow, and show the Election Commission the letter of authorisation signed by secretary-general Lim Guan Eng. If the rocket symbol is rejected, then use the letter of authorisation signed by PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali for Peninsula Malaysia and PKR letter of authorisation for Sabah and Sarawak. This came after the DAP decided to use PAS and PKR symbols for the coming general election on 5 May.
On 20 April 2013, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said DAP can use its iconic rocket symbol for the 5 May general election after getting last-minute confirmation late at night on 19 April 2013. He said the DAP headquarters in Kuala Lumpur received a letter by hand from the RoS at 10 p.m. on 19 April, stating that it had no objections to the DAP using the logo, and that the Election Commission (EC) had informed all returning officers to accept nominations from the DAP.
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