As predicted, both the Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional (PH-BN) coalition and Perikatan Nasional (PN) get to keep their respective states they controlled prior to the recent elections.
But here is where the similarity ends, for we have witnessed PN making substantial inroads into PH-BN territories that are predominantly ethnic Malay.
Equally noteworthy and concerning, the election results also reflect a nation largely divided along ethno-religious lines, brought about by a motley bag of fear, moral uprightness, deprivation, disenchantment, betrayal, bigotry and extremism.
For one thing, although PH-BN managed to retain Selangor, the coalition is deprived of its two-thirds majority in the state assembly, winning 34 seats while PN gained 22. Selangor is the only state in the competition where the winner failed to get a two-thirds majority.
It speaks volumes when Selangor, a crown jewel of PKR, was prised open for PN’s picking, particularly in the northern region of the industrialised state.
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One of PN’s bigwigs making the intrusion is former Selangor menteri besar Azmin Ali, who was closely associated with the “Sheraton move”. He made a comeback after losing the Gombak parliamentary seat in the last general election and wresting the Hulu Kelang seat from PKR’s Juwairiya Zulkifli. This is despite the fact that he is generally described as a PKR traitor.
Not only that. Two of his closest associates, Hilman Idham and Dr Afif Bahardin, sprang back into action after winning in Gombak Setia and Taman Medan respectively, although with razor-thin majorities.
PH, particularly PKR, was also served with another shock. Penanti, Permatang Pasir and Seberang Jaya in the Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency fell to PN. This PN sweep is significant as these state seats are located in Anwar Ibrahim’s stronghold, indicating fading support among the people in the vicinity for PKR in particular and PH-BN in general.
While PKR suffered setbacks, partner DAP performed remarkably well, defending all contested seats but one, making it a formidable force within the coalition.
This is the kind of triumph that could support the rhetoric of its Malay-centric critics and political rivals, as an emboldened DAP could vindicate the contention by some that the party is powerful enough to have control over Malays in PH.
Another PH component, Amanah, however, did not do well. It vice-president Mahfuz Omar was defeated in Alor Mengkudu, Kedah by former national footballer Muhamad Radhi Mat Din of PN.
PH-BN gave a good fight in Negri Sembilan where it gained two-thirds majority. It is the only place where Umno shone.
The grand old party lacked lustre in other states it contested. It won only one seat in Kelantan, two in Selangor and two in Penang. It was wiped out in Terengganu.
Several reasons could be attributed to Umno’s overall dismal performance, one of which is its corruption baggage that turned off many voters.
There is the possibility of protest votes from Umno members themselves who are unhappy with Zahid Hamidi’s leadership. The party needs revamping, with Zahid’s future hanging in the balance.
It is clear that Umno’s loss is PN’s gain, particularly in the enterprise of becoming the favourite champion of Malay rights and interests.
Despite being branded as boorish and abrasive and legal actions being thrown at him, PN election director Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor managed to retain his Jeneri seat with a handsome majority of 16,050. Perhaps playing the underdog can yield rewards.
With the exception of Negri Sembilan, PN’s increasing presence in Selangor and Penang cannot be ignored. It has shown itself to be a force to be reckoned with.
To be sure, votes for PN largely came from the Malay crowd, many of whom were apparently receptive to the coalition’s ethno-religious narrative. The cynics, however, would insist that some Malays bought into Pas’ supposed heavenly promise.
Be that as it may, this divided nation needs urgent healing if it is to move forward for the sake of ordinary folk.
The Anwar Ibrahim administration must carry on with its Madani (Civil Malaysia) philosophy, which among other things, supposedly advocates care, compassion, respect, trust and inclusivity. Hopefully, this approach will set the tone for the state governments in its governance as well.
Although Anwar may need to give sufficient attention to the needs of the Malay community, especially the needy and the dispossessed, the interests and concerns of the minorities, such as the ethnic Indian poor, should also be adequately addressed.
This would mean that development projects initiated by the government must be sustainable so that it benefits the majority of the people, irrespective of their colour and creed, and not just the well-heeled.
Just as corruption must be fought, the government must also prioritise justice, transparency and accountability. In addition, the neglected reforms that were promised must be revisited.
Ignoring the hints shown by the recent elections may lead us to an unsavoury future. – The Malaysian Insight