Solving the race problem

Opinion  |  James Chai
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | The past week has been about race, and it will continue to be for the weeks and months to come, with Umno and PAS seemingly galvanised for the first time since the last general election.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been experimenting with different approaches in search of political relevance, after inheriting a party without power and having to get used to the chaotic nature of opposition politics.

First, he tried the easiest route: identity politics. Umno tried to accommodate PAS in a series of by-elections to portray themselves as the great Malay-Muslim defenders.

This proved unsuccessful with both being a liability to the other. Cooperation with PAS was driving away moderate Umno supporters, and cooperation with Umno was driving away hardliner PAS supporters.

Thereafter, Zahid tried a different strategy: to be an issue-based party. In a surprise move, Umno formed a shadow cabinet to provide effective check and balance against the government. But this quickly descended into a series of feeble arguments and shouting matches in Parliament.

Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin tried to put forward a shadow budget that was thoughtful and well-designed. However, even this did not seem to gain much traction among Umno parliamentarians. Perhaps Zahid was anxious of Khairy’s popularity usurping his?

And then, opportunity

Then came ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) at a golden hour.

Six months was enough to erase any euphoria of overthrowing the most corrupt regime in Malaysian history. Any semblance of goodwill from Malay-Muslim voters who were not Pakatan Harapan supporters and fence-sitters who took a leap of faith on May 9 had largely dissipated...

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