Wishful and immature to assume that PN influence has peaked when it has just begun

SOME wishful thinkers of Pakatan Harapan (PH) or unity government cannot have it both ways. In other words, they can’t have the cake and eat it at the same time.

The recent attempt by Perikatan Nasional (PN) to unseat the unity government in the Johor by-elections cannot be described as the peak performance of the opposition coalition.

It cannot be naively assumed that the by-elections were an electoral downhill for PN having entrapped itself in unchanging race and religious rhetoric.

How can the PN influence be said as having peaked when its support hardly peaked in the recent Johore by-elections?

Despite the low turnout, majority of the Malay voters supported the PN. Only 20% of Malays – the diehard UMNO and PH supporters – voted for the unity government.

Yes, PH-BN candidates might have won but whether it was based on popular support from all the ethnic communities remains to be established.

At the national level, Malay support is about 65% for the PN coalition. The Nov 19 general election (last year), the Aug 12 six state elections and the very recent Johor by-elections (Sept 9) confirm one thing: the Malay support for the unity government is dwindling fast.

Given this, how could the PH-BN supporters not be aware as to what is happening on the ground?

PN yet to realise full potential

The Chinese are considered fixed deposit for DAP and by extension PH-BN coalition. Even the Chinese turnout during the Johor by-elections was not impressive, suggesting there might be growing malaise and disenchantment with PH-BN.

For the Chinese and Malays, the rapprochement of DAP with UMNO is something difficult to swallow. Having fought like cats and dogs for decades, the alliance is somehow problematic and will continue to be so.

Starting with the six state elections and the Johor by-elections, one thing seems constant: the shying away of Indians in supporting the unity government.

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy

The failure of the unity government in addressing Indian issues honestly, the dropping of certain Indian leaders in the state elections and others have contributed to Indians shying away from the unity government.

For many Indians hoping for reforms under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the experience has been disappointment and disillusionment.

In fact, some sections of Indian community might be turning to PN in the near future although the coalition has yet to frame an agenda for the non-Malays in the country.

Rather than wishfully and immaturely saying that the support for PN has peaked in the Johor by-elections, it would be appropriate to say – based on data – that PN has yet to realise its full potential yet.

Perhaps it makes more sense in talking about the dwindling non-Malay, particularly Indian support for the unity government. Without an alternative, the Chinese have reluctantly voted for the unity government.

There is no iron-clad guarantee that electoral politics in Johor and the country is going to adhere to some set electoral patterns or the wishful thinking of some political analysts.

By gaining the support from the majority of the Malays, PN has sent a message loud and clear that Johor – once described as impenetrable – has fallen under the political sway of the Malay nationalistic and religious forces.

If Johor Malays can support PN, this might not have to do with the green wave but a preference for political parties and individuals who are perceived as non-corrupt and decent.

There is a growing perception not exclusive to the Malays that there is qualitative difference between tainted UMNO and the PN.

Malay support for PN has not peaked but has just begun as witnessed in the Johor by-elections. The combined forces in PH-BN might not be powerful enough to stop the juggernaut of PN. – Sept 22, 2023


Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the former DAP state assemblyman for Perai. He is also the former 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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