Anwar test Malays

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during a rally dressed in mourning black gathered to denounce elections which they claim were stolen through fraud by the coalition that has ruled for 56 years. in Penang May 11 2013. Pix Firdaus Latif

Winning the heart of the Malays is Anwar’s biggest test – Analyst

Anwar Ibrahim has a dilemma, that is winning more Malay votes, but he can only solve this problem if he gives up on some nationalistic policies to favour a more Malay holistic stance

Malaysia’s political turmoil is not over yet. There is news of a clash between the newly-installed Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and the Umno leader, Zahid Hamidi.

Yassin has also said in his first televised speech to the nation he will constitute a clean cabinet. This indicates he intends not to hand over ministries to politicians in Umno who are facing graft trials.

They are in particular ex-PM Najib Razak and Zahid Hamidi, ex-deputy PM of Malaysia.

Given Umno’s large seat allocation the new coalition—it is, in fact, the biggest formation with 39 MPs—Yassin’s stance may create tension among the partners.

THE FUTURE FOR ANWAR

We spoke to an analyst, book writer and political activist in Indonesia. Why Indonesia?

The point is Anwar Ibrahim is very popular in Indonesia. He is even more popular than Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the largest Muslim nation on earth.

The analyst, Muhd Isa says, “Anwar will not go far if you do not win back the hearts of the Malays.”

Isa runs the Pusat Kajian Strategi dan Kepimpinan Rumpuh Melayu in Riau.

Anwar will not go far if you do not win back the hearts of the Malays.

Muhd Isa – Riau, Indonesia

Isa means the demographic composition of Malaysia is such that no political leader will achieve much if they focus on non-Malay priorities.

Many blame the Democratic Action Party for the fall of the PH. The DAP fought for decades to achieve its political aims. Now it is back in the ranks of the opposition.

When Anwar started his reformasi campaign in 1998 the DAP found a new thrust.

Today, the DAP is the scapegoat. With the rise in Malay fundamentalism, the parties the Pakatan Harapan defeated in 2018 are back in power.

The Pakatan Harapan is a coalition of parties with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as leader.

When Mahathir resigned last Monday, he created a situation which allowed the opposition Umno-PAS to come to power.

His party, the Bersatu, squashed his bid to return to power and is now an ally of the Umno and the PAS.

The new Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin took the role after Mahathir and Anwar did not get a majority to rule.

The PH, Anwar and Mahathir dispute reports that they do not command a majority in Parliament.

But the problems for Anwar has only just started.

MORE ON DEMOGRAPHICS

His political problems are now linked to the demographics he will canvass for votes in the next elections.

Though the next elections may come in 2020 (in a few months) or in three years time, it for Anwar to win it.

There will be more Malay voters in the country and less Chinese and Indian voters. This is a fact and it will impact PH’s politics.

“The struggle for reform and nationalism will have to continue but the agenda for the Malays must be more clear,” says Isa.

He says Anwar has to learn from the past election results and from the massive defeats of the PH in the by-elections.

They are not simplistic and applying simplistic methods to these problems will not save the PH.

“The Malays find themselves far behind compared to other communities in the economic field, in particular to the Chinese community. If Anwar does not have a specific agenda for them, then they will reject the idea of Malaysian nationalism.

“Anwar needs to say it clearly without offending others,” says Isa.

The problem the PH will face in the long run is the increase in the number of Malay voters.

When the Chinese party like MCA is too weak then the DAP looks like a giant that will devour other groups.

Mudh Isa – Riau, Indonesia

While PH may still command a majority of votes in the urban areas of peninsular Malaysia, it will remain weak in the rural areas. It has to address this.

Anwar, according to Isa, should not give in to sentiments that consolidating the PKR and the PH’s power base in rural areas may offend his non-Malay partners.

THE DAP IN FOCUS

There is also the problem of the strength of the DAP, says Isa.

“DAP is grabbing all the seats allocated to the Chinese community. When the Chinese vote is taken by only one party, the DAP in this instance, it is considered a threat to other parties.

“This threat is directed towards the Malay community. This situation is not good in a coalition like the PH because it makes it very difficult for Anwar to win the hearts of the Malay-Muslim majority.”

Isa says these are facts that cannot be denied. He says if the PH is composed the way it is and fights along with the ideals of the 2013 elections, it will not win power.

The system is fragile because too many leaders can make decisions.

Muhd Isa – Riau, Indonesia

The Malays will fall to the campaign of fear from the Umno, the PAS and now the Bersatu.

Isa considers the week-long chaos in Malaysia after Mahathir quit power as an event that never happened anywhere in the world.

“It is not that unusual for a PM to quit, but the absence of a two-party system did not help Malaysia.

Malaysia now have two coalitions, the PH and one commonly called the backdoor Perikatan Nasional.

Both are loose entities. Any party can jump out and jump in, depending on who literally buys them over.

Hence, Isa says Malaysia’s democratic system is fragile because too many leaders can make decisions.

“As long as it does not use a two-party system then anything can happen. The parties are weak in principle and in loyalty.

“They are weak in defending the ideologies but they are more interested in their respective wellbeing. Malaysia’s politics needs reform,” he says.

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