04 January 2017
Since independence from the British in 1957, Malaysia’s ruling coalition — first known as the Alliance and now as Barisan Nasional (BN) — has won every election based on a multiracial platform, despite being led and dominated by the United Malays National Organisation (Umno).
That claim may come to an end at the next election, not due until 2018 but widely expected in 2017.
Despite Umno’s rhetoric that it is colour-blind and cares for the well-being of all Malaysians, analysts interviewed by TODAY noted that the party has signalled it will bank on using the race card more than ever.
Weakened by the multi-billion-dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal linked to party president and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and having lost the support of the majority of urban as well as ethnic Chinese voters, Umno will need to rely on votes from the Malays and Bumiputras, especially those from the rural heartlands.
The pendulum has swung this way in the past, said Dr Oh Ei Sun, a former political aide to Mr Najib.
“It would in the short run be divisive for the country, but Malaysia has seen this sort of racial card being played many times before and usually ‘recovered’ from them after a while,” said Dr Oh, a Senior Fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore.
He added that he expects BN to win again, maybe with a few more seats than in the last election, but probably not with the two-thirds’ majority in parliament it enjoyed for many decades until 2008.
… Mr Rashaad Ali, a research analyst at RSIS, said Umno and PAS need each other. Like Umno, PAS recently suffered a split, with a splinter party of its more progressive members leaving to start a new party, Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah).
“You are not likely to ever find another scenario where Umno lends its support for a PAS initiative. PAS, on the other hand, will use Umno to bolster itself (bearing in mind that the party now consists of mostly the conservative members after the split) but at the same time, they need Umno,” he told TODAY.
… Mr Rashaad, the RSIS analyst, said the opposition must present itself as a cohesive bloc. “They have lost a lot of momentum this past year, and appear disorganised and disoriented.”
IDSS / Online / Print
Last updated on 04/01/2017