PETALING JAYA: The new unity government must demonstrate they can uphold the interest of Malays to stem their growing support for Perikatan Nasional and PAS, in particular, says analysts.
Universiti Sains Malaysia senior lecturer Dr Azmil Mohd Tayeb said the Malay wave for Perikatan showed no signs of abating even after the new government was formed.
"This trend will continue into the state elections unless the new government performs remarkably well in its first 100 days in dealing with the rising costs of living and other bread-and-butter issues.
"If the general public, especially the Malay electorate, can see this government is effective and able to improve people’s quality of life, then the opinion might swing in favour of the government and take the wind out of Perikatan’s sail,” said Azmil.
Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hasan said although the Malay wave resulted in PAS gaining the most seats in Dewan Rakyat, Perikatan must realise this only happened in Malay-concentrated states on the East coast and Kedah.
"But one can never tell if this trend will continue into the state elections in March next year. By that time, the Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional government would be a few months old and if they did a good job in protecting the Malay Muslim interests, that Malay wave for Perikatan may be stunted,” said Azmi.
He also cautioned the scenarios in a general election and state elections may differ.
He pointed out that the big wins for Barisan in the Melaka and Johor state elections earlier this year did not reoccur during the 15th General Elections (GE15).
"This new government needs to prove that this so-called unity government can protect the Malay-Muslim interests. The problem now is the stigma of corruption among the Barisan leaders. Barisan needs to do some soul-searching on why the Malay voters are now turning to PAS.
"In terms of administering a country, the voters know Barisan is better at it than PAS, but Barisan first needs to rid the stigma before Malay voters can trust it once again to vote for them,” said Azmi.
United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network Asia deputy head (strategy) Prof Wong Chin Huat the Malay wave for Perikatan comprised voters who did not identify themselves with any party.
"There is no study to estimate their respective portion but we may safely assume most of the new voters - whichever direction they voted - may not have developed strong party identification yet.
"Some of the surges are structural and may persist,” said Wong.
He pointed out the failure of Pakatan to represent middle-lower class Malays' economic interests.
"Perikatan then became the default alternative to Umno for many of them.
"The growing legitimacy and stature of PAS after becoming part of the federal governments during the tenures of premiers Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, enabled it to make inroads in Penang, Perak, Pahang and even Selangor and Johor, also played a role.
"There is also PAS’s growing base after decades of Islamist socialisation through religious schools and other institutions,” said Wong.
He cautioned Perikatan, however, not to be complacent, as the surge of support from Malay voters may also be caused by circumstantial factors that may change by the time of the state elections next year.
"To win more Malay support, what Pakatan and Umno need to do is substantively different. Pakatan would need to show it can address the concerns of poorer Malays while Umno needs to reinvent itself to be a moderate conservative-nationalist party that can compete on its governance and technocratic credentials.
He also said Pakatan and Barisan should avoid becoming a permanent coalition.
If Pakatan and Barisan become one single permanent coalition, then they may lose their “product differentiation” appeal which would benefit Perikatan.
"Pakatan and Barisan should also develop a standard guideline on how both may compete against each other in a rigorous friendly match.
"They should also insist that it is the voters who will decide which of them (Pakatan and Barisan) is stronger to be the anchor of the next coalition government," said Wong.