Malay-Muslim bloc will emerge regardless of GE15 outcome: analysts

Umno, PAS, Bersatu likely to join forces to secure Putrajaya via simple majority, they say

(The Vibes) – A Malay-Muslim bloc will likely helm Putrajaya again despite the strained relationships between parties and the ultimate outcome of the much anticipated 15th general election (GE15), political observers said.

They said although Umno and Bersatu appear to be in a tug-of-war for the ultra-Islamist PAS, the three will likely combine forces to form a government via a simple majority if the need arises.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said the need for Malay parties to band together has been amplified since the infamous Sheraton Move that saw the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration in late February 2020.

“At least since the Sheraton Move, there is a determination on the part of the conservative Malays, which make up the bulk of the electorate, to ensure that a Malay-Muslim government will rule this country.

As such, while the Malay parties may bicker among one another for dominance, ultimately, when push comes to shove, they will always coalesce together with their tokens of non-Malay hangers-on to form a new government.

“(This is) such that PH, with its more progressive and liberal outlook and penchant for multiculturalism, would never be allowed to come to power again,” he said to The Vibes, when contacted.

Sentiments of Malay conservatism grew following PH’s historic victory in 2018, with a host of its political rivals accusing the coalition of being subservient to the Chinese-led DAP.

This was translated in several by-elections – Semenyih, Rantau, and Cameron Highlands – where PH was soundly defeated on the backs of conservative Malay votes.

In all three by-elections, Umno and PAS banded together, with both parties signing the Muafakat Nasional (MN) charter in September 2019 to forge an alliance.

In 2020, the formation of the PN administration after the Sheraton Move was spurred on by all three Malay parties joining forces with defectors from PH.

Often labelled as a “backdoor” government by the opposition bloc, the PN coalition is also seen among political observers as a Malay-centric administration.

Oh said a Malay-centric government could prolong frictions within Malaysia’s fragile multi-ethnic community.

“This would, of course, polarise the country’s communal relations even further, as no self-respecting community would willingly subjugate themselves to being lorded over forever,” Oh said.

Which Malay parties will lag behind?

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Prof Azmi Hassan echoed some of Oh’s remarks, saying that pragmatism will push all Malay parties to band together to retain power after the general election.

However, Azmi noted it was now a question of which Malay parties will get left behind, adding that the kingmaker in the equation appears to be PAS.

While PAS has an existing agreement with Umno under MN, it has officially joined PN as a component party alongside Bersatu, Gerakan, SAPP, and Star, Azmi pointed out.

However, PAS has repeatedly reiterated that it will continue to mediate cooperation between Umno and Bersatu for the sake of Muslim unity.

My belief is that BN will win the most seats in the peninsula among all the other political parties, but the combination of BN and (Sarawak-based) GPS would not possess a very strong majority in the federal government.

“BN needs an ally in the peninsula, and the best possible one post-GE15 is PAS.

“If we look at PAS leaders’ statements, the door is still wide open for Umno and PAS to work together, but not before GE15.

“I’m sure that PAS will be with PN before GE15, but not after. PAS can be considered as the kingmaker, even if they have only between 15 and 18 Parliament seats,” Azmi told The Vibes.

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