Malays want a clean, fair and caring govt too

It is time to discard the myth that Malay voters belong to a singular bloc, or that they would only choose either Umno or Pas


ONE of the most often cited excuses by the political conspirators behind the Sheraton coup is that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) equation falls short when it comes to the share of Malay support.

The main evidence substantiating this line of thought is that PH gained only 26% of Malay votes in the peninsula, whereas Barisan Nasional (BN) received 46% and Pas 28%. This generalisation of peninsula-wide Malay votes, however, doesn’t capture two very salient points.

First, the most crucial swing seats in the peninsula are Malay-majority multi-ethnic seats with 30%-50% non-Malay voters.

Once Malay votes for PH in a Malay-majority multi-ethnic constituency exceed 30%-40%, combined with non-Malay support, PH becomes the likeliest winner. That was how Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin won Pagoh in 2018, a seat with 64% Malay voters, 32% Chinese and 4% Indian. Second, the voting pattern for each state is quite different.

PH had the largest Malay vote share in Selangor (PH 39%; BN 36%; Pas 25%) and Kuala Lumpur (PH 38%; BN 38%; Pas 24%).

In Johor, Negri Sembilan and Melaka, PH received 31%, 30% and 29% Malay votes respectively, winning state power in all these states. In the case of Johor, we won 36 out of 56 state constituencies and 18 out of 26 parliamentary seats, thanks to the multi-ethnic nature of most seats in Johor.

In Penang and Perlis, PH received 29% of Malay votes. In all these five states, Pas ranked third in terms of Malay votes.

However, in Kedah, Perak and Pahang, PH received 25%, 22% and 15% respectively, and ranked third among the three contesting parties.

In Kelantan and Terengganu, PH received only 9% and 7%, and ranked a distant third. Only in these two states Pas received 51% of Malay votes.

Despite its achievement, we must not forget that Pas campaigned on an anti-Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak platform in the 2018 election. Now that Pas is in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government and the voters in the east coast peninsula are watching the antics of its leaders, the situation in Kelantan and Terengganu is far from certain.

If PH can garner 30%-40% Malay support across the west coast peninsular states in a Three Kingdom scenario of PH versus PN versus BN, the chances of a “big tent” PH winning between 90 and 100 seats out of 165 peninsula seats would be realistic.

Why do I say this? Because the old idea that Malays can only be Umno or Pas supporters is no longer relevant.

Since 2008, the Pakatan Malay supporters — both in Pakatan Rakyat and PH — have been instrumental in making changes in the last three general elections. This sizeable group of Malay voters wanted a clean government that does not tolerate corruption or accept abuse of power. This is a very important point for PH to note.

There should be no attempt to whitewash Najib’s crimes nor any dealings with those involved in the court cluster. Like other Malaysians, Malays want a Malaysia that is tolerant, and desire a fairer and more equitable economic life for all, regardless of classes.

The discriminatory rules and enforcements of “antara dua darjat” during the Covid-19 pandemic have made many Malays angry with the ruling administration. It is no longer true that Malays will only support Malay-only parties.

It is time to discard the myth that the Malay voters belong to a singular bloc, or that they would only choose either Umno or Pas in elections. It’s time to acknowledge that a very significant number of Malays, too, want a clean, fair and caring government.

  • Liew Chin Tong is DAP political education director and a former lawmaker.

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.