If we know Mahathir well enough, he may be positioning his new Malay-based party as a foil to thwart a more multi-ethnic ecosystem from emerging, K Veeriah writes.
Analysts have attributed Pakatan Harapan’s triumph in the 2018 general election to three main factors: kleptocracy as seen in the 1MDB scandal, the impact of social media and young voters.
Some pointed out that bread-and-butter issues, the impact of the goods and services tax (GST), and the rising cost of living also led many, including Malay voters, to swing to the opposition. The distrust of the Barisan Nasional parties such as the MCA and the MIC, due to their association with the scandal-plagued Najib Razak administration, nudged many Chinese and Indian Malaysian voters to vote for the PH coalition.
During the short period when the PH was in government, the GST was replaced with the sales and service tax, touted as a more spread-out system of consumption tax.
Still, the rising cost of living remains a serious issue, especially among the bottom 40% and middle 40% segments of the people. So is the turbulence surrounding kleptocracy.
Young voters, who made a difference at the 2018 polls, are growing in number, and they will continue to play a pivotal role in the next general election. Likewise, social media will once again play a major role in run-up to the next general election.
So the landscape suggests that the battleground in the next general election will be somewhat similar to the conditions that prevailed during at the last general election, including the impact of race-based politics on the decisive Malay vote.
In the last general election, many PH candidates were nudged out by the split in votes among the Malay-based parties, notably Pas, especially in three-cornered contests. It was obvious the Malay vote base made a difference in the outcome.
Unless there is a political tsunami on an unprecedented scale, the Malay voting pattern may well remain intact except for the urban Malays. A nascent Malay-based party only needs a few hundred votes to have a disastrous impact on others if the contest involves more than two candidates, more so if they happen to be from Malay-based parties.
Bersatu is obviously doomed. But if we know Mahathir well enough, what ought to be of concern is whether he is positioning his new Malay-based party, Pejuang, as a spanner in the works.
The indications are that he is on a voyage to leverage upon his newly tailored party to champion Malay rights and, in the process, derail the ideals of a multi-ethnic political ecosystem promoted by PKR, Amanah and the DAP.
K Veeriah is a veteran trade unionist based in Bukit Mertajam, Penang