The PM’s dilemma: the loss of Malays and now Indians

There is no clear leadership for the community, and it is the prime minister’s coalition that seems to have castrated the Indians in Malaysia.

(FMT) – The Malay community is deeply fractured. The more liberal minded voters seem to have set their stall with PH. But PN has gained so much traction with the community by just pushing facts while stirring racial sentiments.

A divided Malay populace is a mounting problem for the prime minister and his unity government. In the last general elections as well as in the latest state elections, it is clear that PN has grown from strength to strength.


Is it to do with political Islam or “identity politics” within the Malay community? Is it because younger, new voters identified with Muhyddin Yassin because of his stewardship during the pandemic? Or is it because of PN’s TikTok campaign featuring many popular influencers, and Ustaz’s, to win over voters?

The PN social media machinery has gone gang-busters. Their algorithms are so strong that even non-Malays like me, get their content. And, even at a cursory glance, it is clear that PN has lined its facts up, cleared its decks, and is presenting realities that seem to resonate with Malay voters.

An observant analyst commented recently that PH’s social media campaigns are 90% “goreng-goreng,” or just wishy-washy populist content. Only 10% are facts and growth-based useful information for the people. Whereas, the PN content is the actual reverse of this. Only 10% is frivolous material, while 90% of their content is solidly based on facts.

The prime minister’s own party, PKR, is in steady decline. The Malay-led multiracial party was once the mainstay of the Pakatan Rakyat/Pakatan Harapan coalition. But at the recent state elections, they were left with only 25 seats, just five seats more than Umno’s meagre returns.

Analysis shows that in the last general elections, PKR’s aggregate vote was 15.74%, which is a drop from the 2018 and 2013 elections. This clearly indicates that the Malay vote is leaving the prime minister’s own party.

So naturally, as we have been witnessing in recent weeks, the PM is going on over-drive to demonstrate his Islamist credentials with his outfits, presiding over conversions, introducing the “Imam Al-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith” module in schools and more.

But is this enough to turn the tide and woo Malay voters back to him? Or is the PN narrative about the prime minister hoodwinking Malays resonating with the community? And, are populist acts like this, just making him look shallow?

Also, why is it unpopular amongst “liberal” Malaysians to criticise the PM and this unity government?

Give him one term, they say. He cannot undo all the wrongs in the country within a short 10 months, they say. Of course, he cannot. But he should not be piling on more “wrongs,” should he?

News portals are being shut-down, and implied threats are being issued, even by ministers. People are beginning to worry about a return to the dark days of press censorship. And these threats are justified by saying the alternative is terrible.

The need to clamp down on critics only happens when a government is feeling terribly vulnerable. Rather than harping on the misdemeanours of the opposition, this government should present its agenda and create a pathway for the nation to move forward and navigate us out of our economic woes, and societal fissures.

For example, because the Malay community has left the PM and the PH coalition in droves, the minority Indian votes count more than ever for the government, especially in Malay majority constituencies.

But instead of reaching out to the Indians, who were already partial to PH, the prime minister’s coalition is alienating them. Even in Penang, PKR’s sole Indian representative, a two-term state assemblyman, was not even considered for an Exco position. It could have been an olive branch to the Indian community in the PM’s own party. But again, good sense did not prevail.

Nationally, with MIC being driven to oblivion, and leading Indian politicians like Charles Santiago and P Ramasamy being sidelined by the internal skullduggery in their own party, Malaysian Indians once again find themselves in “no-man’s-land.”

There is no clear leadership for the community, and it is the prime minister’s coalition that seems to have castrated the Indians in Malaysia. Without strong and visionary leadership, the community is slowly fragmenting and, in the process, the ultimate losers are the PM’s coalition. This was clearly demonstrated in the state elections with a significant drop in the Indian vote for PH.

The Indian community as a whole does not need “hand-outs” but simply asks for equal opportunities, especially with education, technical and vocational training. And for the longest time, the community’s clarion call has been for its people to be treated with dignity, and not as second- or third-class citizens in their own homeland.

As Malay voters leave his coalition, it becomes vital for the prime minister to not also lose his Indian support. Sure, his “fixed-deposit” is the Malaysian Chinese support by virtue of the strongest party in his coalition.

But leaving Indians behind, is without a doubt, bad news for the PM.