Why right-wing politics succeed


PETALING JAYA: Economic conditions play a large part in attracting voters to right-wing political narratives, according to political analyst Faisal S Hazis of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Speaking to FMT, he noted that the swing to the right was happening not only in Malaysia but also many other parts of the world, including advanced countries like the United States and countries at the other end of the economic spectrum, such as Myanmar.

“This phenomenon has a lot to do with economics, with the fact that there’s been one recession after another and with the expansion of the gap between rich and poor,” he said.

Speaking of Malaysia, he said the swing became clear after the 2013 general election.

“You can see that prior to 2013, Umno was using a more centrist, or moderate, approach and sort of taking its cue from the opposition’s centrist rhetoric. But after 2013, you see the party using more racial and religious rhetoric to appeal to the Bumiputeras.”

He said one difference between Malaysia and the US was that president-elect Donald Trump’s right-wing rhetoric was much more extreme than Umno’s. According to him, Umno has to be more subtle because it has to consider the position of its partners in Barisan Nasional.

Another difference between the US and Malaysia, he added, was that right-leaning Americans had voted for Trump because they were anti-establishment whereas in Malaysia, most of the right-wing rhetoric was coming from the establishment itself.

“The opposition in Malaysia has to learn to engage the majority of voters, who are Bumiputeras,” he said.

He said although the opposition’s centrist messages were successful in denying BN complete dominance in the 12th and 13th general elections, these were not enough. Such messages did not resonate well with Bumiputeras, he said.

“The opposition parties have gained maximum support from the non-Malays, but this is not enough to win the elections,” he said. “They have to go back to the drawing board and, without completely abandoning their centrist messages, learn to balance these with narratives that appeal to the Bumiputeras and those living in rural areas.”