“PN, non-Malay political bond still very vague, support limited to protest vote against unity gov’t”

PERIKATAN Nasional (PN) leaders were recently chided by former de-facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim for not being an inclusive political coalition.

In fact, Zaid called for the resignation of their principal leaders such as PAS president Tan Sri Hadi Awang and Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin over the poor performance of the PN coalition in the recently concluded Kuala Kubu Baharu (KKB) by-election.

He proposed that these long-time leaders should be replaced by younger and more dynamic leaders to rejuvenate the clueless opposition coalition.

Zaid’s opinion aside, I believe PN could have done better in the recent KKB polls. If only the coalition had taken a more inclusive approach to politics, the results would have been different.

Even if the opposition coalition did not win the polls, it could have narrowed the victory gap of the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led coalition.

Leaders of the PN coalition are aware that coming to power in Putrajaya means that it has no option but to take a more inclusive approach.

The Malaysian Indian People Party (MIPP) officially joined Perikatan Nasional (PN) on April 22

While identity politics is strong within the PN coalition, to date it had failed to make inroads in the non-Malay communities particularly the Chinese and Indians.

Addressing concerns of non-Malays

PN politicians cannot expect support from the non-Malays if the opposition coalition’s stand on vernacular education, the rights of the non-Malays or non-Muslims, the position of their religions and others are kept vague.

In the KKB by-election, some of the earlier statements of PN leaders on the need to do away with vernacular schools were used to instil fear among Chinese and Indians voters against the PN coalition.

In the last state elections in 2023, there was a slight change of heart among some sections of Indians to support the PN candidates.

If at all there is some measure of support among the Indians for PN, it is more to do with protest voting against the PH-led coalition.

There exists no political bond between the non-Malays and the PN. It would be unfair to expect the non-Malays to gravitate towards the PN if the opposition coalition does not take the initiative.

If PN is serious about aspiring for national power, the worries, the anxieties, concerns and fears of the non-Malays have to be addressed.

It serves no purpose to have an Indian party in the PN coalition if the former is seen as a political appendage to the opposition coalition.

Lacking counter hegemonic approach

I think PN understands very well the dilemma it is facing in Malaysian politics. But the question is: whether the opposition coalition is prepared to make serious political adjustments to placate the non-Malays in the country.

PN’s commitment to identity politics of the Malays is the reason why it is popular among them. However, taking national power also means coming to terms with the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Malaysia.

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy

Unless and until the PN coalition comes to terms with the Malaysian reality, it would be just confined to be a glorious opposition party.

It is not that the present ruling coalition has all the answers in terms of political support from the various ethnic and religious groups in the country.

With the advantage of political power, the PH-led government has been able to stay in its political course by cleverly manipulating the fears and concerns of the non-Malays.

Unfortunately, PN lacks the counter hegemonic approach to effectively expose the ruling government.

Such an approach on the part of PN requires two actions: one is to critique the PH-led coalition’s approach to governance and the other is the provision of an alternative agenda for the non-Malays.

In brief, PN must come up with inclusive approach to Malaysian politics that not only caters for the identity politics of the Malays but also the non-Malays.

Is PN prepared to accept this challenge? – May 14, 2024


Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the Urimai (United Rights of Malaysian Party) Interim Council.

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

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