The Dap led Penang state government is almost certain to renew its mandate for another term. Dap strategists are hoping to consolidate and maximize Chinese support to over 80-90% in order to overcome a possible slight shift of Malay and Indian support back to BN.
To do so, there is a need to project Lim Guan Eng as a strong and dominant leader of the Chinese community. He cannot be seen as weak when dealing with his opponents or alliances; including his deputy chief minister Mansor Othman.
Minutes of a private meeting between Mansor and several Chinese representatives were published verbatim in a blog, namely Gelagat Anwar, in its June 16, 18 and 19 postings. The leak revealed that Mansor had described Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng as “cocky and arrogant”. He had also said that Lim was revered like “tokong” (deity) by Chinese voters in Penang.
Mansor was 'persuaded' by his colleagues in the state exco council to to “eat humble pie” by reading out a prepared text before an army of pressmen. Dap Chow Kon Yeow was the first to kick up a fuss over the revelation and demanded an explanation from PKR.
Dap could have gotten what it wanted to preserve the dignity and dominant image of Lim Guan Eng but the party could have handled it differently and ended up looking more magnanimous and forgiving than the current image of being cocky and unable to accept even the mildest criticism.
The fact that Mansor was 'persuaded' to read out his statement at a press conference over something so menial magnifies the insecurity of Dap and its supremo Lim Guan Eng.
Mansor is being made to look weak and meek over something which is so trivial. Dap leaders could have made similar remarks about some leaders in PKR and PAS in private too.
While Mansor has been successfully portrayed as weak and meek, the party should not forget that he is the current Deputy Chief Minister and a leader of the Malay community in Penang. A weak Mansor is going to be perceived as marginalization of the community under the leadership of Dap led PR government. As a result, more Malay voters are going to shift back their support for UMNO regardless of whether their leaders are being more polished or not.
Sometimes ego can get better of a good political strategy. Dap, being the government, is still acting like an opposition. It does not have to be about 'mojo' (manhood) all the time.
Lim could have laughed it off and throw words of support for his deputy believing that he would not have uttered such words. Blame it on the BN and trojan horses but never run down your own general. Haul up Mansor if he wants to but please do it in private. I am sure he could have gained more mileage from Mansor and his own Malay support in the end.
Many pundits have observed that it could be all over for Mansor Othman. Yes, by being forced to read from a prepared statement to a room filled with reporters could have rendered him impotent and weak in the eyes of his own party members and leaders. Mansor knows what is in store for him and he has privately hinted on being replaced by someone else who could be parachuted into Penang.
In this episode, Dap should learn a lesson. Political power can be projected softly and deftly through good PR and strategy. The party does not have to seek out to quash all criticisms all the time using a sledge hammer.