Could a coalition make a difference?

Party loyalty is not guaranteed now. It’s all about the issues. 

“LIFE is difficult now. Prices of goods have gone up – egg has gone up, chicken has gone up, fish has gone up. I know the price, as I go to the market to shop instead of my wife,” said an irate 60-year-old Grab driver.

“Under the previous government, it was RM4.90 to RM5 a kilogram for chicken, now it is RM7.90 to RM8 a kilogram.

“I am also angry with Pakatan Harapan because of the way it handled Icerd (the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination). Why do we need to ratify it?

“For my community, we already have the Constitution, so we just follow the Constitution. The Chinese and Indians have also accepted the Constitution. So why change it? I know our history!” said the retired teacher who taught history in secondary school.

In the past, the Grab driver had voted for PAS in the Kulim-Bandar Baru parliamentary seat in Kedah. In the last election, GE14, he voted for PH as he wanted to bring down Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who took money, the driver said.

The Malay voter, however, regrets voting for PH because of PH (price hike), Icerd and broken promises such as the abolishment of the National Higher Education Corporation Fund (PTPTN) loans.

“If there is an election, I will vote for PAS or Umno. Most of my friends also regret voting PH. If Umno and PAS unite, this PH government is finished,” he said.

I was in his Grab car as I had just met political analyst Dr Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur on Monday to get his insight on the Dec 8 anti-Icerd rally in KL.

Icerd, Dr Mazlan said, was seen by non-Malays as something that is rational, as ratifying it would be the government’s way of creating a new Malaysia that is fair and equitable.

However, he said, a majority of Malays are still traditional and conservative.

“The Icerd issue appeared at a time when Malays are worried that there is a challenge to ‘ketuanan Melayu’ (Malay supremacy), which was frequently used as the bogeyman during GE14,” he said.

“Umno and PAS saw the potential of protesting against Icerd to start a wave of Malay nationalism.”

Dr Mazlan explained that Malay/Muslim voters could be divided into three categories: participant, subject, and parochial.

Participant voters: 1) Are educated; 2) live in urban or semi-urban areas; 3) are open-minded; 4) support a political party based on issues; 5) are not loyal to a political party; 6) have a political culture based on developmentalism consumerism; 7) are analytical; 8) are dynamic; 9) are mobile; and 10) are young.

He said 40% of Malay voters are participants, especially the younger generation. This group is getting bigger due to urbanisation and development.

The subject voters: 1) Know their role in a democracy; 2) tend to want to keep the status quo; 3) live mostly in rural areas and Felda settlements; 4) are from the older generation; 5) are pro-establishment; 6) place importance on stability; and 7) have a distaste for provocation and street politics.

He said about 50% of Malay voters are subject voters, as many live in rural areas.

The parochial voters: 1) Do not know their role in a democracy; 2) are not educated and live in rural areas or are urban poor; 3) can be influenced by bribery and corruption; and 4) can be controlled by the government via government machinery.

I asked Dr Mazlan in which category he would place the Grab driver. The participant voter category, he said, because the driver was 1) educated; 2) lives in an urban area; 3) analyses existing issues; and 4) is not loyal to a political party.

“This kind of voter sees a political party like a retail good,” he explained.

“The participant voters will pick a political party like a retail item. Whichever party can sell something (policies) good will be their choice.

“He has been voting for PAS because he considers the party to be better than Barisan Nasional. His support for PAS was a protest against BN and not because he is loyal to PAS. The evidence is when he saw PH was better than PAS and BN during GE14, he switched from PAS to PH. He deemed PH policies to be better and good at that time.

“However, after six months, the participant voter has analysed issues and he finds that PH has not fulfilled its promises and was not firm on the Icerd issue,” said Dr Mazlan.

“So he is determined to return to voting for PAS. And if PAS and Umno are united, he will vote for this coalition as a protest against PH.”

On the Grab driver’s assertion that the PH government will be “finished” in GE15 if Umno and PAS form a coalition, Dr Mazlan said if that happens, it would create a new Malay political power.

However, he said, the coalition of two Malay parties – Umno and PAS – would not be able to defeat a PH government supported by all races.

He listed why it would be difficult for an Umno/PAS coalition to win GE15.

> Umno – which is stricken with many problems and issues, especially corruption and integrity – is expected to remain weak. And many of its leaders and members are abandoning the party. PAS working with Umno will be seen as defending corruption and financial misappropriation.

> Racial issues will be the focus of Umno-PAS to win support in Malay majority areas, such as in the East Coast and in the north of Peninsular Malaysia. However, they will lose support in the West Coast and the south of the peninsula, and in Sabah and Sarawak.

> Even though Malays form the majority of voters, to rely only on this community to win an election is not enough.

The Alliance Party/BN managed to survive for 61 years because it was supported by all races. Now, PH is receiving support from all races while Umno-PAS is only supported by Malays.

Back to my chat with the Grab driver. Echoing Dr Mazlan, I told him that the massive anti-Icerd rally on Dec 8 was no guarantee that Umno and PAS could win GE15.

“Race-based politics is on the decline in Malaysia. To win GE15, a coalition needs the support of all races,” I said.

“If PH was to lose in GE15, it might be because of the economy and an emergence of a new multiracial party.”

The Grab driver thinks otherwise. The anti-Icerd voter is confident Umno and PAS – combined – will win GE15.


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