Bersatu’s new ideology to win over non-Malays

PETALING JAYA: Bersatu is banking on a new document to overcome its biggest hurdle in capturing federal power – convincing non-Malays that it and the Perikatan Nasional coalition it leads can take care of the community’s interests.

The document, tentatively called the “Bersatu ideology”, will contain five principles that would define the party for both members and non-members, said party senior leader Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah.

The first two principles – inclusivity and moderation – are meant to express how even though it is a Malay-bumiputra party, Bersatu does not only look after the interests of that community, said Saifuddin, who is part of the committee drafting the ideology.

“We are a multiracial country and Bersatu cannot be an exclusively Malay-bumi party. This is why we have an associate members’ wing,” he told The Star, referring to a Bersatu section that comprises non-Malay members.

“We believe in peaceful coexistence between all ethnic groups in Malaysia, which is defined in the Federal Constitution.”

Moderation is meant to express Bersatu’s intention to advocate for policies and initiatives that are centrist rather than those that tilt “right” or “left” on the political spectrum, he added.

The other principles are “democratic”, “integrity” and “prihatin”, which means caring in Bahasa Malaysia, and was also the trademark slogan of the Perikatan-led government from March 2020 to August 2021.

“We want to define ourselves as a nationalist party with five principles that members should embrace in totality, and to act and behave accordingly.

“When Bersatu was formed in 2016, it was to replace Umno as a Malay-bumi party and the associate members wing came later, so it is important for Bersatu to define itself,” said Saifuddin, who is a former Umno leader.

“We have to be better than Umno as we are a Malay-bumi party, but we are as inclusive as possible in the way we behave and in how we have an associate wing. This also has to be a Perikatan Nasional thing.”

Bersatu and Perikatan, which includes Islamist party PAS and the multiracial Gerakan, emerged as the second largest coalition after it clinched 74 parliamentary seats in the 15th General Election in 2022, despite only being formed in August 2020.

The coalition’s leaders and analysts attribute Perikatan’s stellar performance to it winning broad Malay support, as shown in how all 74 of those parliamentary seats are constituencies where the community makes up more than 70% of voters.

However, Perikatan leaders and Saifuddin himself have admitted that the coalition has reached the uppermost limit in terms of Malay support.

In order to win more political territory and be able to form the Federal Government, the coalition needs at least a 10% shift in non-Malay votes towards it.

Saifuddin hopes that once the Bersatu ideology is completed, it will nurture a different political outlook among members and allies in Perikatan on how to better manage inter-communal relations so as to win over non-Malays.

Relying on a Malay party to deal with Malay issues or a non-Malay party to solve problems involving their respective communities is no longer viable in today’s Malaysia where voters think in terms of multiracialism, he added.

“That was the old political framework. The new political framework for a Malay party is that they must work side-by-side with non-Malays,” he said.

“Bersatu’s ideology document will likely be unveiled at the party’s annual general assembly in November.”

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