LETTER | Many government politicians have been harping on the opposition’s, particularly PAS, influence surge since GE15 concluded last year.
PAS’ recent endorsement of the “Malay People Proclamation” and its strong criticisms against the government on the “Allah” issue seemed to further freak them out.
Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy has called on the unity government to adopt a strong “cultural strategy” to counter PAS’ growth and to possibly siphon support from the Malay heartlands.
It is obvious that such a call is rooted in his fear of losing Penang in the upcoming state election, given the incredible expansion of PAS’ influence in the northern peninsular.
What the unity government needs in the upcoming state elections is not another cultural-based propaganda (which very likely means racial and religious cards), but a real track record that could be converted into voters’ trust in them to continue leading the states.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim did the right thing, at least politically, in continuously raising the class struggles.
It is too complicated for an ordinary Malaysian without any economic or finance background to understand the complex issue of unequal distribution of wealth.
Therefore, the class card serves a similar purpose as racial and religious sentiments, that is, to allow grassroots Malaysians to understand the government’s strive for eradicating poverty.
However, to siphon support from the Malay heartlands merely using the class card is insufficient. It takes time for Anwar to bridge the economic gap between the rich and the poor.
Most voters in the Malay heartlands demand results and ignore the process; thus, in this upcoming state elections, all the pledges of wealth sharing between the rich and the poor won’t penetrate effectively into their minds.
Stop slamming their own feet with a stone is more practical for the unity government in facing the state elections. To be precise, this must start from Umno.
Umno is still an integral part of the government despite its worst-ever performance in GE15 because it holds the 30 seats needed for Anwar to pass the two-thirds majority benchmark.
However, they must be aware of the fact that they are no longer the sole “Malay political ambassador” in this country.
For themselves and the unity government to survive, they must acknowledge their current incapability of counterbalancing PAS’ influence in the Malay heartlands and initiate internal reforms to brush off their corruption label.
After all, not all Umno leaders are involved in corruption scandals.
For Anwar and Pakatan Harapan, firmness is the key. Anwar has given up most of his principles to appease Umno so that he could continue to cling to the prime minister position that he has dreamt of his whole life.
Though it is essential for him to be the prime minister to implement the reforms that he has pledged for more than two decades, he is not firm enough to counter Umno’s greed for positions in exchange for their support towards him.
Key portfolios in the cabinet which control a lot of GLCs like the Rural and Regional Development and Defence Ministries are already granted to Umno MPs in exchange for their support.
The political trade should not have flown into the state level, where the Perak MB post was given to an Umno assemblyperson despite Harapan winning more seats.
Most of the political appointees in the GLCs are Umno representatives, which again shows Anwar’s lack of courage in defending his principles against a power-hungry Umno.
This is the key point which would drive fence-sitters away in the state elections.
Anwar must remember that even if Umno and BN choose to ditch the unity government because they don’t get what they want, he will still have 118 seats in the Dewan Rakyat to keep him in power.
His decision to withdraw the appeal on the “Allah” issue has more or less shown goodwill to his allies in Sarawak and Sabah, lowering the possibility of them ditching the ruling coalition together shall Umno kickstart the move.
Thus, there is no excuse for Anwar to continue giving up his principles in the name of maintaining the government’s stability.
Current economic efforts and promises provided by the unity government are still insufficient to alter the hardcore voters’ (who support PN) minds. Hence, internal strength and trustworthiness must be portrayed to woo the fence-sitters.
A “cultural strategy” could not work for the unity government as they can never succeed against racial and religious sentiments, which is PN’s area of expertise.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.