PETALING JAYA: Political analysts have played down the odds of a shift in non-Malay support towards the opposition even amid talk of unhappiness with the current government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, citing concerns about Perikatan Nasional (PN) component PAS.
Bersatu Youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal, in an example of recent comments on the situation, said recently that non-Malay voters might withdraw their support for the government due to unaddressed essential issues.
The Machang MP said failure to tackle these issues could lead traditionally pro-Pakatan Harapan (PH) voters, especially from the Chinese community, to consider backing PN.
However, James Chin of the University of Tasmania said concerns over the implementation of shariah law would be a significant deterrent for non-Malay voters.
“The non-Malays are very afraid of PAS,” he told FMT.
“They are afraid of Islamic law because PAS has made it very clear that the law will be first introduced to Muslims – and then sooner or later, everybody will go through it regardless of whether you are a Muslim or not.”
Chin also cited the lacklustre election results of Gerakan, PN’s multiracial component which lost all of its deposits at last year’s general election after meeting with defeat in every seat contested.
He said Gerakan’s beating showed that non-Malay voters were distancing themselves from the coalition.
“This clearly demonstrates that non-Muslims have a significant fear of PAS,” he added.
‘Rather not vote’
Chin referred to a recent incident in Kota Bharu where a non-Muslim woman was fined for wearing shorts.
He said it illustrated a stringent enforcement that had also contributed to the non-Malay fear of PAS and PN.
“No matter how much they (the non-Malays) are disappointed with Anwar, they will not vote for PN. They would rather not come out to vote,” he said.
If Anwar wished to regain the support of non-Malay voters, he said the primary focus should be on steering the country back towards a moderate, middle path in its policies and governance.
“At the end of the day, bread-and-butter issues are very important. Many non-Malay voters reside in urban regions where financial stability is essential,” Chin said.
Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs agreed it was unlikely that Chinese voters would back PN due to PAS’s perceived extremism.
“The sun will perhaps rise from the west before Chinese voters will support PAS and, by extension, PN,” he told FMT.
And regardless of any dislike or disappointment towards Anwar or his policies, Oh said the PH chairman remained the only feasible option.
“For most right-thinking Chinese, (voting for PN) is tantamount to pandemonium. In that sense, it will be very difficult for PAS to make any gains from any potential non-support of the Chinese towards Anwar,” he said.
While PN could in theory distance itself from PAS in order to win Chinese support, Oh said this would be challenging.
“This is because PAS holds a significant portion of the seats in PN, amounting to nearly two-thirds of the coalition’s total in Parliament,” Oh said.