A war to win the hearts and minds of the Malays has begun

Zainal Epi, Malay Mail Online

So the stage is set for the battle between the seven-month-old unity government led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Perikatan Nasional (PN) led by former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in the six states heading to the polls on August 12.

Muhyiddin, of course, is the president of Bersatu, a splinter of Umno but it is PAS that is providing the solid foundation and backbone for the PN coalition.

Without PAS, Bersatu is not significant at all as it was formed by another former prime minister who was also former Umno president ― Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Its objective then was to kill Umno politically and take its place as the champion of the Malays in this country.

In the past seven months, the Anwar-led government has been hit by criticism from all sides and there have definitely been attempts to destabilise the government.

The stakes are high in this battle as no government in this country can last long without the support or endorsement of the Malays, the majority population.

If the ruling government is not able to retain or win an extra state, it means they have failed to be the champion of the Malays and Anwar himself is not recognised as the leader who can champion the Malay cause.

This may not lead to the fall of the ruling government but the path to move forward and develop the country will not be smooth as the Malay heartland states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah will not be in-sync with the federal government.

This state election is also the yardstick for Umno to truly judge its relevance because if the party fails to deliver seats to help PH to win the numbers, the party may be in trouble internally and party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s position may be shaken.

In short, state election is a test of the acceptance and recognition for Anwar and Zahid as well as Umno in the fast-changing political scene.

For the rivals, the stakes are high for the respective parties’ survival with the exception of PAS because Bersatu may bite the dust and fade from the main political stage as it has yet to build a political base that can withstand the years till next general election.

PAS is not in the slightest danger as its hardcore supporters have never abandoned the party even when it won just one parliamentary seat years ago.

The six states going to the polls are Malay-based Negeri Sembilan, Selangor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu while Penang is Chinese-based.

For the Malay heartland states, the traditional war was between PAS and Umno but the present outlook seems to favour Islamist PAS as both the parties have similar objectives and ideologies except that Umno is liberal and more tolerant.