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Aiming for federal power through the back door of state elections?

If voters sleepwalk through these polls, they will set the tone for never-ending political posturing and intrigue

Mahiaddin Yasin (left) and Hadi Awang - FILE PHOTO: BERNAMA

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By Paul Bellow

State elections do not have the power and punch of a general election, but the upcoming electoral battles in six states are shaping up to be a colossal contest that could decide the fate of the federal government.

For the federal opposition bloc, Perikatan Nasional, its mission is clear – it wants to retake the seat of the federal government through the back door of the state elections.

If it wins in all the six states or makes sharp inroads in Pakatan Harapan-led states, PN will be emboldened to lay claim to Putrajaya.

For sure, PN will not keep quiet if it scores a resounding victory. It will capitalise on the momentum to denounce the PH-led government and incessantly create all kinds of problems.

A PN triumph will usher in a long period of political instability as the opposition will try every political trick and chicanery to weaken Anwar Ibrahim’s hold on federal power. The prime minister will be walking on a tightrope to keep his administration on an even keel.

Ever since PN was not picked to lead the government in the aftermath of the 2022 general election, its leaders have been sulking in the corner and throwing tantrums. They just could not accept the fait accompli.

Fervent hope

Now, with the state elections around the corner, PN sees a glimmer of hope. If the federal road to Putrajaya is blocked, then its leaders believe the six state roads will be just as effective in their bid to regain the pinnacle of power.

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But a federal government can only be formed at the parliamentary level. Perhaps PN leaders Hadi Awang and Mahiaddin Yasin entertain the fervent hope that somehow PH will collapse once the full force of an overwhelming PN victory at the state level hits Anwar’s belly.

This could happen if the partners in Anwar’s “unity government” decide to break away in the belief that the state elections were a referendum on the PM and his PH coalition. If all the six states reject PH, then it follows that the coalition is no longer as popular as before, nationwide. If the PH vessel lists, no one will want to remain on board. They will abandon ship and allow Anwar to sink into the seabed all alone.

But this possible PN script is unlikely to have a happy ending because leaders in the coalition are fighting mostly along the jagged lines of race and religion. They only pay lip service to multiculturalism while their statements have stirred profound resentment among the ethnic minorities.

Major challenge

PN is exploiting the narrative being pedalled by an almost 100-year-old political deadwood – that the ethnic majority group has lost political power.

According to this narrative, the state elections mark the start of a journey to recapture so-called lost ground. The opponents then are the ethnic minorities, whom Pas, the big brother in PN, has consistently vilified.

If Pas were to win most of the state seats it is contesting solely with ethnic Malay support, its divisive and intolerant brand of politics would pose a major challenge to Anwar’s “Malaysia Madani” (Civil Malaysia) values, which embrace the reality of the nation’s multiculturalism.

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So these state elections will set the tone for the future course of Malaysian politics.

For PN, it would seem that, if it cannot get to form the federal government the normal way, it can always take a detour through the states to sneak into Putrajaya.

But be warned. In the future, leaders in federal opposition-led states could call for snap elections before the expiry of their terms in order not to have the state elections coincide with a federal general election. If they are not confident of capturing Putrajaya at the next general election, they might feel they can at least cling on to their state seats.

The stage will then be set for ceaseless political warfare between the states and the federal government. Leaders in states under federal opposition rule will try their level best to undermine the centre at every opportunity, while ruling coalition leaders at the centre will be busy warding off attacks using every available advantage at their disposal.

If voters in the upcoming state elections sleepwalk through the polls, the story of Malaysian politics in the coming years will be mired in never-ending political posturing and intrigue, a high-risk competition for raced-based votes, and incendiary religious rhetoric.

Let’s not allow this to happen.

Paul Bellow is the pseudonym of an Aliran reader

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Paul Lim
Paul Lim
3 Jul 2023 2.39am

If Malaysia is going to be mires in this kind of politics, it will gone down the drain and the possibility of outward migration of minorités who can afford it. There will be a braindrain.

Khoo Soo Hay
Khoo Soo Hay
30 Jun 2023 8.10am

Malaysian voters cannot afford to let our local politicians play race and religion. Hadi should be sent to Saudi Arabia to feed camels there, instead of fomenting problems at home.

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