Malays WIll Still Vote UMNO in GE14

Posted on December 24, 2015

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MalaysStillVoteUMNO

Let’s face it, most Malay voters voted for Barisan Nasional at the last General Elections. It would be reasonable to say that between 65 percent to 70 percent of Malays voted Barisan Nasional with the percentage in rural districts going as high as 85 percent in some areas while in the urban areas the vote were evenly split.

UMNO knows the importance of winning the Malay votes. Since the 13th General Election, UMNO has all but abandoned the non-Malay votes and Government policies have been overtly pro-Bumiputra/Malay and racial politics has taken the front seat in Malaysia.

Delineation of electoral boundaries has always been a tool of choice to carve out favourable seats and ensure electoral victories in the past. With so much at stake and the re-delineation of boundaries long overdue; gerrymandering and malapportionment of constituencies to increase Malay-majority seats for the next election is a must-do for BN to survive.

BN/UMNO has wasted no time to woo the Malay and Non-Malay Bumiputra voters with economic policies and handouts as well as matching Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) in its pursuit of Islamic agendas.

Further, with PAS’ revered spiritual leader, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat gone, the prospect of a unity government between PAS and UMNO or at least an electoral pact, is more likely than ever.  Notwithstanding the 1MDB scandal, the depreciation of the Ringgit and the GST, which would probably be forgotten come GE14 in 2018, the hold on the Malay votes in Peninsula will probably be tighter.

Many are aware that the New Economic Policy (NEP) and its subsequent variants have failed the Malays and it has led to cronyism, corruption and abuse of power, creating an elite class of Malays. But what choice do the ordinary Malay voters have?  If with pro-Bumiputra policies over four decades, they still cannot get out of the poverty trap, what hope is there if such a policy is abolished and meritocracy is introduced?

Such insecurities are real to the Malays but they seem totally irrational to the non-Malays. The position of Islam as the official religion and the special position are enshrined in Article 3 and 153 of the Federal Constitution and is unchallenged.  The Sultans, the executive leadership of the country, all the public institutions are overwhelmingly led and staffed by the Malays. Government-linked companies, most banks are controlled by Malays. University quotas favour the Malays, loans and grants are given and special discounts for the purchase of stocks and houses are reserved for the Malays. Why then should the Malays still feel insecure?

Perhaps there is a class divide among the Malays; the ruling class and the working class or to put it another way, the “haves” and “have-nots”. It is true that on the surface, the Malays control almost every aspect of society but the benefits of such dominance are not trickling down nor felt by the urban poor and rural Malays.

Despite the class divide, the common identities shared by the two groups are their ethnicity and Islam. As long as the ruling class are seen as championing both of these key identities, all can be forgiven by the masses and economic well-being and good governance can take a backseat.

Pakatan Harapan as the new coalition of opposition parties, as well as their supporters, have to face squarely the issue of Malay insecurities whether they think it is real, imagined or justified. There is a reason why UMNO is seemingly giving free reign to Ministers and Malay supremacists to stoke racial discords and allowing Jakim and other state Islamic authorities to sow divisions among the communities. They are exploiting the insecurities of the majority electorate.

Pakatan Harapan has to come out with a solid alternative to the NEP. One that does not take away the entitlement afforded to the Bumiputras but strengthen on the empowerment aspect of it. It has to address all the design and implementation flaws of the NEP where the benefits do not reach the Bumiputras who really need them. It would be worthwhile to consider a social cap to any entitlement to prevent abuses of the privileges where the connected and already rich Bumiputras muscle out the rest on their way to get richer.

Going beyond populist policies of giving subsidies, tax cuts, freebies and handouts, which by the way, they can never out-do BN, Pakatan Harapan needs to take this bull by the horn and put together a solid, clear and specific plan to lift the majority of Bumiputras out of poverty,  while at the same time, ensure that the other communities are not left out.

Instead of seeing change as a great leap forward, it may be necessary to see it as a slow crawl out of the abyss that we have fallen into. It would require ingenuity, perseverance, patience and focus but surely, it can be and must be done.

For further readings on the NEP, please read Dr. Wong Chin Huat’s articles at:
1) The Malays’ post-NEP anxiety – Part I

2) The Malays’ post-NEP anxiety – Part II

3) Imagine there is no NEP