BN’s failures pushed voters towards DAP, PAS, says Chandra

Chandra Muzaffar says Malaysia’s political centre has been weakened by corruption, poor governance and weak leadership.

(FMT) – The growing strength of PAS and DAP is rooted in multiple failures on the part of the centrist Barisan Nasional-led federal government since the 1990s, political scientist Chandra Muzaffar said.

“If centrist leaders performed, they would have held the centre,” Chandra told FMT, adding that BN’s losses have directly benefited PAS and DAP, widely seen as rightist and leftist parties.

Previously, Sarawak premier Abang Johari Openg said the recent six state elections indicated that West Malaysians still voted along racial and religious lines.

DAP and PAS were the biggest winners in the polls, respectively winning 97.9% (47 of 48) and 82.7% (105 of 127) of the seats they contested.

Chandra said BN used to dominate the centre but a combination of weak leadership, poor governance, and corruption led to its collapse.

He said the failure of the government to check gross exaggeration of communal narratives also contributed to the “loss of the centre”.

“These are narratives like how the Chinese totally dominate the economy, that’s not true. There are also narratives about how Chinese and Indians have no rights in this country. That’s also not true.

“But the real problems were not ethno-religious. They were socio-economic problems. The economy, jobs, education,” he said.

As a result, centrist voters began looking at BN’s rivals, DAP and PAS, for solutions.

“For the Chinese, they saw DAP as the party championing their interests. For many Malays, it is PAS.”

He said a similar trend could be seen in the US when people rallied behind Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, and in India, where voters backed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014.

“Trump and BJP both played the race card but the issues people faced in the US and India had more to do with socio-economic problems rather than race and religion.”

He said this political trend was “unhealthy” for democracy because people would not vote based on merit but because a certain party is linked to their community or their community’s ethno-religious interests.

Chandra said centrist parties need to restore the people’s faith in them by focusing on good governance and solid policies instead of trying to outdo parties on the left or right to win support.

“In Umno’s case, they failed to change and learn from their defeat in 2018. They went into the 15th general election and the state polls expecting different results. It didn’t happen.

“And it also affects those who work with them like PKR and Amanah. Their support base is shrinking,” he said.