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Can parties campaign without race-baiting?

BENEDICT LOPEZ

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The political temperature is set to rise in the elections in Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah, Penang, Selangor and Negri Sembilan, with Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional fighting hard for the crucial Malay votes.

The PH-BN coalition must reinforce its Malay base and arrest the “green wave” that has swept across the crescent states of Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah and even beyond.

Although Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail has warned that the authorities will take action against the exploitation of race, religion and royalty in the election campaigns, it is likely that some parties will breach the order in creative and crafty ways.

Steering clear of those issues is a tall order for political parties that have been used to chanting the race-and-religion mantra over the years. Identity politics has been a survival tool for them.

In response, the Malay-dominated PN has stated it will stay clear of such a divisive narrative, with its chairman Mahiaddin Yasin saying his coalition will instead address issues ordinary people are facing such as inflation and aid for businesses.

That sounds refreshing considering PN has been championing the interests of Malays to the point of ignoring its non-Malay base. Mahiaddin’s quotable quote still rings for many Malaysians: he’s Malay first, Malaysian second.

Additionally, PN is signatory to the so-called “Malay proclamation”, which professes to protect Malay interests. The movement was initiated by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has now aligned himself with his former nemeses, Pas and Bersatu.

Meanwhile, in an apparent effort to divert their energies away from race and religion, certain parties have resorted to exploiting the fissures between their rivals.

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For instance, PN made a meal out of the provocative remarks made by the DAP’s former publicity secretary Tony Pua regarding Umno, a component party of the “unity government”.

At a recent DAP fundraising dinner in Petaling Jaya, Pua was reported to have called BN and Bersatu “corrupt”.

The DAP distanced itself from Pua’s statement, saying that was his personal opinion.

Nonetheless, PN youth chief Ahmad Fadhli Shaari took the opportunity to accuse the DAP of treating Umno and BN in the unity government like a “dirty doormat”, asking if Umno and BN members would still support the PH component party in Selangor.

This implies the DAP has dominance over the Malay-based Umno, a negative image that coincides with the grand narrative peddled over the years by certain politicians, that the ethnic Chinese have a dark design to take over the country and seize power from the Malays.

In contrast, Mahiaddin has assured Malaysians that PN does not have a “big brother syndrome” although this may cause some people to wonder how the multi-racial Gerakan fits into the coalition led by Bersatu and Pas.

The DAP has once again became the bogeyman to scare Malay voters away.

It doesn’t help that Pua’s gaffe has triggered a reaction even among the parties in the unity government.

Predictably, his comment provoked anger within the Umno leadership, particularly party secretary general Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, who sent a note of protest to DAP leaders. As intimated above, Umno certainly does not like to be depicted as being under the thumb of the Chinese-dominated DAP.

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It also irked BN component party MCA, which believed Pua’s views are inimical to the spirit of of the PH-BN alliance, especially with state elections just around the corner.

In an attempt to calm things down, Umno president Zahid Hamidi told BN politicians to not be bothered by the comments.

But this is not Zahid’s only headache. Umno Supreme Council member Lokman Noor Adam recently called the MCA and the MIC “biawak hidup” (deadweights) over their lacklustre performance in the last few years.

Offended, the MCA’s youth wing secretary general Daniel Wa called on his party to sit out the state elections to teach “friends” of the DAP a lesson.

Such friendly fire has indeed become a distraction and problem that the partners of the unity government could do without, an occasion that could have been well spent on consolidating their position in the wake of the elections.

Politicians of various hues should spend less time demonising their rivals through the emotive mantra of race and religion in a desperate attempt to look better than their opponents.

Their calibre and commitment should be reflected in their policies related to the common good of the people and the states concerned.

Hence, we want to know, for instance, how the politicians go about attracting foreign investments and resuscitating the sluggish economy.

What assistance will they provide to the fisherfolk, farmers, plantation workers and the hardcore poor to raise their standard of living? – The Malaysian Insight

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.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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