PH needs cultural strategy to win the hearts and minds of Malays

WINNING the coming state elections especially in states under the control of Perikatan Nasional (PN) is not going to be that easy. State elections might be held this year in May or June.

In fact, there is chance that the Malay majority Pakatan Harapan (PH)-controlled constituencies might be up for grabs by the combination of Bersatu and PAS in PN.

PN is gung-ho that it might even win all the state seats in Kedah like how it won almost all the parliamentary constituencies there in the recent parliamentary election.

At the moment in Kedah, PN has 21 seats whereas the opposition has 15 seats, basically under UMNO and DAP.

PN wants to repeat the performances at the state level because the Green Tsunami has yet to subside.

Some say that the use of race and religion might be temporary for PN, but I am not sure what this temporary means.

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy

Definitely it cannot be months it could last for years or even until the 16th General Election (GE16) in 2027.

PN ‘ambushes’ PH

So in this respect, temporary is not temporary, it could last for some time.

I am not sure if the incumbency of the unity government with PH as the anchor can dent the green wave.

It will all depend on the performance of the present government and to what extent it is committed to wiping out the menace of corruption and ills associated with the former governments.

Remember, PN became popular and won more seats than expected because of the corruption indulged by certain UMNO leaders.

In the campaign before the GE15, both Bersatu and PAS was able to zero in on the corruption cases stalked against UMNO president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to win over the Malay support.

In this respect, the clever and ingenious use of the social media – not so much religious sermons especially among the youth – worked to the advantage of PN.

PH unanticipated the political oppositional surge that could emanate from PN, especially PAS. In fact, it was PAS that lifted Bersatu in gaining popular Malay votes.

By thinking that the BN was the primary political enemy based on its performance in the by-elections in Melaka and Johor, the opposition completely missed the real political enemy, the PN.

Essentially, PN ambushed PH on the Malay front. I am not sure how the combination of UMNO and PH – especially its Malay components – can usher new basis of Malay support for PH.

Cultural battle

UMNO might be part of the unity government, but how such combination is going to work in favour of PH in the coming state election remains to be seen.

Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci once said that the cultural battle must be won first before the real war is won on the battlefield.

Pic credit: The Star

In the recently concluded GR15, PH might have won the war but at the expense of losing the cultural battle which is gaining the support of the Malay community.

This is the reason why there was need for a unity government. Unity government would not have been there if PH had the necessary Malay support.

The question is not so much the Green Wave is temporary or the UMNO-PH combo might get the Malay support or the question of incumbency.

All these factors are important but the key question is how the present government and more so PH is going to prepare the cultural ground for the eventual victory.

Such a cultural battle for the hearts and minds of the Malays must expose the cultural and moral bankruptcy of PAS or Bersatu.

To enable this strategy to work its magic, PH must think hard and fast. It serves no purpose to think of suppressing the ideological, racial and religious propaganda of PN through enforcement measures.

It would be an exercise in hollowness, ultimately benefiting the PN. Alternatively, PH might have to come up with a superior cultural strategy to undermine the naked extremism of race and religion.

A counter hegemonic strategy is more than required to political entomb PN. – Jan 2, 2023


Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyman for Perai. He is also Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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