Race-based politics to rear its ugly head as state polls draw closer?

RACE-BASED considerations will likely continue to guide policies in Malaysia even though the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coaition had previously routinely disavowed ethnic preferential policies in favour of need-based policies.

This is very much inevitable as both PH and the opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) will be locking horns in six states during the upcoming state elections in late June or July.

“PH currently holds Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Penang while Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah which are predominantly poorer Malay states fall under PN’s leadership,” deduced Fitch Solutions Country Risk & Industry Research in a commentary entitled “Malaysia Will Likely Face Policymaking Challenges Due To Fragmented Government”.

“A clear victory by PN could put pressure on the coalition government to implement more pro-Malay policies in order to shore up support among this core group.”

In a related development, the research house continues to see possible challenges in policymaking which it described as “relatively unencumbered” over the coming quarters.

“It remains to be seen if the Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim-led government which is still in its early days of the five-year tenure will be able to formulate and implement reforms on more politically contentious matters as effectively as the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government led by former PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak before they were defeated in the 2018 general elections.”

Accordingly, Fitch Solutions said it is keeping Malaysia’s Short Term Political Risk Index (STPRI) score unchanged at 72.9 (out of 100) for now which is still lower than the score of 75.6 back in April 2018.

Moreover, Fitch Solutions observed that there are also nascent signs that the unity government which comprises of multiple parties could face future policy gridlocks due to ideological differences.

Recall that in February 2023, Penang DAP deputy chairman Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy came under criticism from other coalition partners over his remarks urging the government to address racial imbalance in the public sector.

“This prompted Anwar to explicitly state that the government does not intend to reform the civil service. The diverging views between top leaders in the coalition instil little confidence that parties will be able to see eye to eye on other ethnicity-related matters,” the research house pointed out.

Elsewhere, Fitch Solutions is concerned that the Anwar-led government may also struggle to pass extensive anti-graft reforms.

“Having passed his 100-day mark in office, Anwar has received praises by political observers for living up to his commitment of cracking down on corruption. A key development involves the arrest of former PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who faces multiple corruption charges related to government contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, we note that anti-corruption efforts have so far been targeted at the opposition and it remains to be seen if the government will be able to effectively tackle corruption from within.

“Despite Anwar’s assurance that MPs from the unity government are not sparred from anti-graft investigations, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who is on trial for corruption was appointed as Deputy PM to secure UMNO’s support of the unity government,” the research house pointed out.

“Several members of Anwar’s own PH coalition – including Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and DAP’s chairman Lim Guan Eng – are also on trial for corruption-related charges.” – April 6, 2023

Main pic credit: The Star

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