IN the last 15th General Election (GE15), the UMNO once the biggest political party in the country, faced a terrible backlash and was defeated hands down by the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), a component party of the Perikatan Nasional (PN).
Writing an opinion for the MySinchew, an English news and analysis portal, columnist Charles Chia said the Malay voters were disillusioned with UMNO during the GE15.
“The outcome of the GE15 took many political pundits by surprise. UMNO, targeted by all quarters, ran its worst campaign in history.
“It was a disastrous defeat for UMNO. It confirmed the trend of Malays abandoning UMNO that eventually brought down the UMNO-Barisan Nasional (BN) government in GE14,” he said.
He believes the Malay voters could no longer stomach the “unbridled corruption” and flagrant abuse of power of the former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak regime and the immense 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal.
“The signal is unequivocal – Malay voters have lost their faith in UMNO. The colossal IMDB crime shattered whatever illusion they had of UMNO as the rock, champion or protector of Malay interests.”
Nonetheless, he does not believe that voters have abandoned UMNO in favour of PAS for good.
He further explained that the Malay vote has shifted on many occasions, citing the 1998 elections won by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad with half of the Malay votes.
However, in the last general election, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) won only 10% of Malay votes, according to unofficial estimates.
“Why? What happened? Does this mean that the Malays do not want Anwar’s reforms?” he asked.
Reform is not anathema to the Malay voters. They do not reject reform per se, and the renunciation of UMNO is nothing less than an act of rebellion or defiance, said Chia.
Chia further noted that the seed of reform is not alien to Malay society.
“More pertinent are the questions: What type of reform? Who benefits? Which leader to trust?”
According to Chia, while PAS suddenly surged as the biggest party in Malaysia, winning 49 seats and beating UMNO in the process, this was only an incidental switch.
“My view is that this switch (to the PAS) is incidental. The Malay man-in-the-street is uneasy about having PH as the Government.
“Would the Malay power slip out of their hands? Would they ‘become poor again in their own land’? This is a false narrative, but one that is easy to sell, especially to first-time voters,” said Chia, adding that the Malay voters did not vote for PN but took refuge in the PAS given that they lost faith in UMNO.
Thus, he believes the unity government of Anwar has a lot of work to do to enforce what he calls “Ketuanan Rakyat”. — Dec 17, 2022