KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 — The lack of Malays in the Bersih 4 rally over the weekend is an indication that many within the ethnic community do not support the call for Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s resignation, analysts have said.
Prof Dr Samsul Adabi Mamat, a political science lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) believes that such demands have been greatly exaggerated by the online media, and that Malays- who formed the majority of the country’s population want Najib to stay.
“But from this rally, it’s clear that the absence of Malays, less than 30 per cent, means the Malays do not agree with it.
“In a democratic country, the majority will be the decider but in the form of parliamentary seats, the Chinese make up the majority of the voters, especially in the city,” he noted.
Samsul also said it was no surprise that there was only less than 20 per cent Malays who showed up because the only two major Malay parties, PAS and Umno, did not participate.
Bersih 4 rally attracted about 100,000 people by the end of the two-day protest, demanding for Najib’s resignation along with other demands for free and fair elections.
About 80 per cent of the participants were Chinese Malaysians.
Samsul noted however that just because many Malays do not agree with Bersih 4’s demands, it did not mean that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) would win a bigger majority in the next elections as many parliamentary seats are in urban areas where the Chinese are the majority.
Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI) director Dr Lim Teck Ghee stressed that Umno will stop at nothing to retain rural votes, which is its “most effective strategy in the past” as well as playing up to “Malay insecurities and fears about Chinese dominance”.
He said Bersih rallies and follow up activities will have to neutralise this by having their Malay leadership play a more prominent and substantive role; and for the non-Malay elements to take a back seat and a low profile.
“For now, Umno and BN has the Malay and rural vote still locked up. However, besides 1MDB, there are enough issues such as the controversies over Felda and Mara and the hard times the Malay lower class is facing to make rural voters change their minds in the voting booth.
“But it will require PKR and the new PAS splinter party to be the leading advocates and to be empowered within the opposition coalition to fight for these votes in the kampungs and villages; and not to hand them over to Umno and BN by more urban-oriented actions,” he said.
Independent pollster Merdeka Center’s director Ibrahim Suffian along with some other analysts Malay Mail Online spoke to, meanwhile disagreed and said the lack of Malay presence does not necessarily reflect the support for Najib and Umno as a whole.
“I think the situation from the Bersih rally is that there is a stalemate between the people supporting and not supporting the government.
“It’s quite clear that groups like Bersih can mobilise mass people to come out, but they need more work and alliance to get Malay voters to come out as well.
“But having said that, it’s not clear whether the event last weekend strengthened Najib’s hold on the Malay vote bank,” he said.
He said the position of Najib, who is also the president of Umno, is “relatively safe” for the moment but whether Umno’s position within the Malay community has strengthened as a result of the rally, where the majority of rally goers were Chinese, cannot be said.
“What we saw over the weekend was done by mobilising social media, as the participants were mostly urban and Internet savvy,” he said.
Think tank, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) founding chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan attributed the absence of Malays to PAS, the opposition Islamist party, which has the ability to mobilise busloads of Malays in previous rallies.
“I think the biggest factor is the absence of PAS from the rally. We must acknowledge that civil societies have always been championed by political parties and they have mass membership.
“When PAS is absent from the rally it affected the Malay turnout. That’s the biggest contributor,” he said.
But he too said it is taking a leap to assume that everyone who did not turn out supported Najib.
He added that it is not about Najib retaining the Malay vote bank but it is him having to rely only on the remaining votes from the Malays who do not support the opposition.
“It’s the worse situation for politician to be in,” he said.
Associate Professor Dr Faisal Hariz, senior fellow at Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), UKM echoed the sentiment that the lack of Malays in Bersih 4 showed that the community is very much politically fragmented.
In terms of views on issues, he said people are divided along party lines and Bersih 4 turnout is another manifestation of that.
“The support for Bersih basically was based on party lines and you see a lot of Bersih supporters came out in support of Bersih and the fact that the Malays are politically fragmented so there is no single party that can captured the support of all of them as before,” he said.
He added that for Najib to regain the majority, he needs to address criticisms thrown at him.
“The problem is perception of people towards him and his administration is at a low point now and to regain footing in politics, he needs to address the image problem and in politics perception is everything even though it may not be true.
“At the end of the day you need to address the economy and our currency is going down, FDI (foreign direct investments are being withdrawn, people are feeling the pinch of GST (Goods and Services Tax), so all this stuff at the end of the day, are things that matter to the people, the economy, political stability; these are bread and butter issues Najib eventually needs to address,” he said.
– See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/malay-vote-bank-remains-in-najibs-grip-even-after-bersih-4-analysts-say#sthash.eh9nMP5w.dpuf