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COMMENT | The slow decay of the Malay political establishment

COMMENT | Malaysia is undergoing a political crisis that few would have predicted just a year ago. To recap, in February 2020, a “backdoor government” was established under Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

In this power grab, there were several key political-party actors. The new Perikatan Nasional (PN) government was a coalition that consisted of the three most important political parties promoting Malay-Muslim nationalism: Umno, which had dominated politics for decades, the nativist Bersatu, and PAS, which favours strict adherence to Islamic law. Indeed, all three parties unashamedly adhere to the ideology of “Ketuanan Melayu Islam” or Malay-Islamic Supremacy.

The previous Pakatan Harapan coalition government of Dr Mahathir Mohamad suffered from a widespread perception that it was too heavily influenced by the DAP, the largest Chinese party in Malaysia. This led directly to the tensions that eventually prompted the fall of the Harapan administration.

The PN government, on the other hand, was unique in that it did not initially have any representatives from the minority Chinese and Indians. This was the first time in Malaysia’s political history that the minorities were not given a seat at the top table. Hence, most of the Malay establishment were looking forward to a long period of Malay hegemony and political stability.

But, as we now know, this did not...

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