Malay votes to decide outcome

The pro-establishment groups ruled in the recent campus polls. If the trend holds, it would seem the Malays will be the deciding factor in the coming general election.

Baradan Kuppusamy, The Star

THE campus polls, which saw the Barisan Nasional-leaning Pro-Aspirasi group victorious in most public universities, mirrors a surge in young Malay support for the coalition in the larger society.

The campus polls followed recent political developments in the country with PAS and, to a lesser extent the PKR, coming under pressure from Malay groups to explain their co-operation with the DAP.

PAS, in particular, is under constant attack for giving in to DAP’s demands and not vibrantly defending Islam as it had in earlier elections.

Conversely, PAS has also been attacked by DAP national chairman Karpal Singh for continuing to propagate hudud laws, which are Islam-based criminal laws.

At the same time, DAP is heavily criticised by MCA and Gerakan because Karpal seems to be the lone voice objecting to hudud, suggesting that other DAP leaders have compromised their stand for political expediency.

The pro-establishment group has, up to Saturday, won 91% or 565 of the 620 seats contested in all 20 campuses.

They swept all seats in Universiti Teknologi Mara (50), Universiti Malaysia Perlis (31), Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (28) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (24).

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia is the only public university held by the Pro-Mahasiswa group, which won 19 of the 28 seats contested.

The polls, thus far, can be taken as a curtain raiser for the larger national polls which must be called by May 2013.

The campus elections are thrilling affairs, complete with rival groups, alleged death threats and heated campaigns and manifestos, just like political parties competing for state and national power.

With so many public universities today each with a population ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 picking student leaders can be a daunting task.

The contest for the “hearts and minds” of the undergraduates is sometimes fierce, as they are young and impressionable and will soon become first-time voters.

The campus polls, thus, mirrors the political leanings in the country; where the predominantly Malay voters both in the rural areas and semi-urban centres still back Umno, which helped the Barisan in a string of by-election successes since February 2009.

The outcome of the by-elections also showed the erosion of rural Malay support for PAS, which is under constant attack from Malay groups for purportedly failing to defend Islam.

In recent years, the fence-sitters are beginning to back Umno, which has expanded the Government’s rural enrichment programmes and made it synonymous as its own.

Demography also plays a big part in the surge in support. The Malay population has increased while the Chinese and Indian numbers have reportedly shrunk.

This is reflected in the large number of young Malays entering the electoral roll as new voters.

If the trend seen in campus polls holds, it will be the Malay votes that will decide the outcome of the general election.

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang had reportedly argued that even if most of the Chinese voted for the party, they can only hope to win about 40 parliamentary seats. This is not enough for Pakatan if the Malays and a portion of Indians stay with the Barisan.

The reality is that, out of 222 parliamentary seats at stake, only 45 are Chinese-majority.

MCA holds 15 parliamentary seats, which also have substantial Malay and Indian voters.

Meanwhile, to form the next government, the Barisan has also to fight for the 50 seats in Sabah and Sarawak.

The coalition has been diligently courting the two states, offering huge chunks of development funds besides key Cabinet positions to their MPs.

The overtures are expected to pay off despite most Chinese voters backing DAP in the last Sarawak state election and the defection of two ageing politicians in Sabah to Pakatan.

Our campuses are predominantly Malay, with significant numbers of Chinese, Indians and youths from Sabah and Sarawak; and this population distribution faithfully reflects the larger Malaysian society.

Going by the results of the campus polls, the trend is increasingly in support of the establishment, which has the Malays as well as the minorities in its leadership ranks.