For some in the Malay heartland, this holiday season is a good time to reflect on the political positions of the community.
WHEN Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin balik kampung to Jempol in Negri Sembilan on Hari Raya, his relatives and friends, who see him as a “big analyst”, bombarded him with questions about what the political future of the Malays is.
The political analyst asked them in turn – do they support Umno or PAS?
“I wanted to know who was being influenced by the moralistic Muslims,” he said.
Prof Shamsul Amri argued that the nature of the Malay voters is not as straightforward as we imagine it to be – rural and urban.
That’s old school, he said.
“What is happening now is there are Malay voters who I call the ‘moralistic constituency’ in rural and urban areas – young and old people who believe in Islam, who are against corruption, who believe in truthfulness.”
Before the 14th General Election, the political analyst had written about how PAS would get MP seats from the moralistic voters.
“Rafizi said PAS would get zero MP seats. I predicted 20 MP seats,” he said.
Before GE14, Invoke founder and then PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli predicted that the Islamist party would not win a single parliamentary seat. PAS won 18 MP seats.
The “moralistic constituency”, according to Prof Shamsul Amri, are 1) young, religious and devoted, 2) Muslim businessmen involved in SMEs (small and medium enterprises) such as making tudung and herbal medicine, and 3) pensioners who spent time in the mosque to prepare for the afterlife.
These groups of people could not see how they could vote for Umno or Pakatan Harapan, that is why they voted for PAS, said Prof Shamsul Amri. What gave PAS the confidence that they would vote for it was because they donated money to the party for the election, he said.
After GE14, he said PAS decided to get together with Umno as it realised that the support from the moralistic Muslim voters was only good enough to win the states of Kelantan and Terengganu but not the Federal government.
PAS, said Prof Shamsul Amri, decided after the “cleansing up” done by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Umno after his party accepted Umno MPs and leaders.
“So now PAS leaders are clear that the Umno leaders left behind are not obviously corrupt such as Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan who was already rich as he helmed Cycle & Carriage before joining the party,” he said.
He justified his remark by saying that Umno leaders facing corruption charges like former president Datuk Seri Najib Razak and president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi were isolated in the party leadership.
In general, Prof Shamsul Amri observed that the Malay voters see Dr Mahathir as taking revenge on Najib with the 42 counts of corruption and money laundering charges.
“They say that two cases to get him to jail is fine. If you really got all the evidence, if he is really guilty, you do not need 42. They say it is like menjala ikan (casting net) where you throw the jala (net) in the hope of catching something. If you really know where the fish is, you only need to use the lukah (fish trap),” he said.
The political analyst has also noted a trend of those who voted against Umno returning to the party.
“There is a high level of consciousness among Malay voters especially the young in urban areas because they have made the switch in GE14. And they want to switch again as after the election as nothing has happened for them such as abolishing PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund Corporation) debt or lowering highway tolls,” he said.
The Barisan Nasional victory in the recent by-elections in Peninsular Malaysia, such as the Cameron Highland parliamentary seat and Semenyih and Rantau state seats, reflected the switch, he said.
The moralistic voters, according to Prof Shamsul Amri, will support Umno for now.
“That is their only hope. They always see DAP as dominant in the Pakatan government as the party is a solid kingmaker,” he said.
They also perceive Bersatu to be a weak version of Umno, he added.
“The party is conflicted inside. Look at the Johor leadership, there are two factions.
“PKR is nothing (to them) as they see Anwar (PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) as a convict. They go for prayers in the mosque and PAS will campaign that we shouldn’t have a convict to be a Prime Minister as the royal pardon has not cleansed him.”
This campaign moves outside the mosque when the moralistic voters meet Muslims who are liberal (those who are open to a political alliance with DAP).
“That’s the talk we are hearing quite a lot now,” he said.
Prof Shamsul Amri said Dr Mahathir might use this as a reason to do a U-turn on Anwar as the next prime minister.
“It is like how he turned around with the Rome Statute. He will say it is what the people want. This is what he does as he doesn’t have support. He is weak. He is also looking for a signal. He cannot use the sodomy case again and again as it has run out of its use by date,” he said.
“My main question is: Anwar is the president of PKR. He is MP of Port Dickson. Wan Azizah should resign and let him be Deputy Prime Minister. Why is it not happening?” he said, referring to Anwar’s wife Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
“Is Wan Azizah refusing to resign? Or could it be that it’s Dr Mahathir who doesn’t want Wan Azizah to resign? But nobody can answer this. For me, this is very critical.
“Why can’t he be when Mat Sabu can be Defence Minister? Why can’t Anwar, a suave guy be the deputy Prime Minister?” he said, referring to Amanah president Mohamad Sabu.
During Hari Raya, the “big analyst” was also asked: “Who do the Malays think should be the next Prime Minister?”
Besides Anwar, the name often mentioned is Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, the PKR deputy president.
“He can’t be. He’s there because of Dr Mahathir and he has failed Mahathir. He was given an express ticket to be the Economic Affairs Minister to take care of the Malay interest. But it is not going anywhere,” he said.
The dark horse for Prof Shamsul Amri is Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. The Gua Musang MP was Umno vice-president and Semangat 46 president. He was responsible for bringing PAS back to rule Kelantan in 1990 with the support of Semangat 46.
In the 1987 Umno election, Tengku Razaleigh challenged Dr Mahathir for the party president post. Dr Mahathir retained it by 761 votes while Tengku Razaleigh got 718 votes, losing by 43 votes.
“You go back to 1987 when the contest for the prime ministership was done with Tengku Razaleigh challenging Dr Mahathir for the Umno president post. It is fascinating. I call it the rebirth of 1987 except that now Dr Mahathir is on the other side (Pakatan and Bersatu) where he is very weak (as compared when there was blind trust in him with massive support in Umno when he was with the party).
“Tengku Razaleigh would have been the prime minister if he had not lost the Umno presidential election,” he said.
“PAS people see him as important. It is not only Umno. If PAS and Umno were to face GE15, Tengku Razaleigh is their choice for PM.”
If the 82-year-old Kelantan prince was destined to be Prime Minister, Prof Shamsul Amri said there were two possibilities.
One is the Umno/PAS coalition winning GE15, which he said could be as early as this year if a snap election is called.
The second is if those in the Dr Mahathir camp decided it would be him.
“It depends on the configuration. How many MPs will support him? It must be mooted by Dr Mahathir and Tun Daim Zainuddin,” he said.
So far, Prof Shamsul Amri said only three PM candidates – Anwar, Azmin and Tengku Razaleigh – have emerged. I asked him about their chances.
“I consider 50/50. Probably less, 45/65 if there is a big movement called #NoConvict4PM,” he said.
“Around 35% to 40% now. The momentum is building up. He is quiet. I met many people asking me for my opinion and they say ‘betul lah, Prof’ (you are right, Prof). I have been watching this for a long time, since 1987,” he said
“Just 10%,” he said.
Hari Raya and Syawal for Muslims is a time for reflection after fasting during Ramadan.
“It is a good month to think positively about the political positions of the Malays,” said Prof Shamsul Amri.
The moralist constituency, he said, will be doing a lot of political thinking.