Election-winning rule No 1: Get the Malays on your side

Election-winning rule No 1: Get the Malays on your side
By Zan Azlee

What if Dr Mahathir Mohamad is right? It could be true that for a coalition to win a general election, the most crucial element is to win the Malay vote. Logically, this ethnic group, which is the majority, makes up around 51 percent of Malaysia’s population.

But, if you check with the Department of Statistics, you wouldn’t find immediate information about the Malay population because the common category is “bumiputera” which has in it the various indigenous ethnic groups. And they have stated the total as 62 percent.

It’s interesting to see that throughout the years, their percentage has dropped quite a bit. In the first few decades when I was growing up, the census used to show that the Malays made up around 60 percent of the population.

It’s either they are becoming less productive or the other races are upping their “production line” efficiency in order to catch up. This could be a good strategy to create more balance and ethnic equality in a country’s demographics (better than education and awareness, I guess!).

Anyway, I digress. Population and demographics can be held off for another instalment of my column. Today, I particularly want to talk a little bit about politics. Mainly, it is because I found the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown totally messing up our national politics.

Everyone became so obsessed with the virus and how it was so deadly and spreading so fast that politics actually took a backseat for a short while. Hey, rightfully so, of course! We managed to bring down the infection rate and control the virus pretty well, thank god.

Of course, there was a bit of a hoohaa here and there. How can there not be? The Sheraton Move happened right before the lockdown and then there was all that effort made to call for a motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. But all that was squashed because of the pandemic.

Muhyiddin Yassin

Well, now we’re in recovery mode and what better indicator of how things are getting better if not the increase in vibrancy in the political scene. And it just seems like there is chaos on both sides of the divide right now. Ahh! Familiarity really breeds comfort.

Ever since the Sheraton Move, the former Pakatan Harapan coalition (now “Harapan Plus”?) has been in shambles with all their infighting. The most recent issue, of course, is the choice for prime minister once (but now it looks more like an “if”) they take back the government.

You have these two old men who are slapping at each other to get the top post. One seems to be very power-hungry and actually has already been the prime minister twice (once for a whopping 22 years). Another has been the PM-in-waiting for an even more whopping 27 years!

And there is this other old man who is actually the prime minister (albeit through the infamous Sheraton Move) just sitting quietly in Putrajaya, wearing a face mask while observing everything that is happening and probably smirking to himself.

But again I digress. I started off saying that I wanted to talk about how Mahathir could actually be right when he said that for Harapan Plus to win back the government, they will have to win the Malay vote and according to him also, only he can do that for them.

Two major component parties of Harapan Plus, DAP and Amanah, have already put themselves behind Tun. The other party is PKR, and we all know that they are adamant that they want their president, Anwar Ibrahim to be the coalition’s prime minister candidate.

So here’s the thing. Ever since it’s formation in 1998, PKR has been known to be the factor in splitting the Malay vote because it meant that the Malays now would either vote for Umno or PKR. There is PAS but they are like small blood-sucking mosquitoes now, kind of like MIC.

Leading up to the 2018 general election, Tun formed Bersatu and joined Pakatan Harapan. Bersatu was a Malay-based party much like Umno and, in hindsight, they are most probably the reason many Malays were convinced to vote for them, hence Harapan won.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Now, post-Sheraton Move, Bersatu has left and is now part of the government with the Perikatan Nasional coalition. Like it or not, Tun and a handful of others are no longer in Bersatu and are in the opposition.

So where does that leave Harapan Plus (their new name post-Sheraton Move)? They are literally left without a huge Malay voter base. Yes, PKR did split the Malay vote way back in 1998 but they are also technically a multiracial party.

It’s a good thing that PKR is now known as a multiracial party. That is the goal, isn’t it? We all want Malaysia to move forward and get past racial bias. But unfortunately, as much as we want to think that we are moving towards that, we still have not arrived.

Politics in this country is still divided by the dirty race game and most politicians and political parties realise this and so they will always play by this game’s rules. Tun understands this all too well and he is just reading the rules out loud for people to hear.

Look, even DAP understands the rules and that is obviously why they are backing Tun to be prime minister for the six months that he has agreed to before passing on the baton to Anwar. So why are Anwar and PKR still not relenting? Who knows? Maybe desperation has a role in this.

At this point, if you look at it from all perspectives, nowhere will you see the rakyat being at the forefront and the reason for all the politics that is happening. It is just individuals and political parties wanting the best for themselves. It’s a little bit disheartening but not surprising.

At the end of the day, the only winner is the Sheraton brand. In this article alone, I have mentioned the name close to half a dozen times. And that’s just me. Can you imagine how many times journalists and commentators have mentioned it since March? Oh well, at least someone has benefited from all of this.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

Get Zan Azlee’s best-selling book ‘Liberal, Malay and Malaysian‘ today!

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