DESPITE the optimism of some in the opposition, a tsunami of Malay votes for Pakatan Harapan in the 14th general election (GE14) is unlikely, analysts said.
The enthusiasm that greeted PH speakers at ongoing ceramah around the country was not an indication of how Malays, especially those in rural areas, would vote.
The “subsidy mentality” and identity politics are still strong among rural Malay voters, especially if they are part of the local Umno division network, are participants in government schemes like Felda or benefit from incentives through these channels.
Historical trends also does not support hopes for a major shift in the Malay vote, as such waves of support for the opposition in the past had not been big enough, analysts say.
Prof Dr Redzuan Othman of Institut Darul Ehsan (IDE) said despite inroads made by PH in rural areas, Malays here had yet to be fully persuaded to support the opposition coalition.
“I still don’t see a Malay tsunami happening.
“In my observations at PH ceramah outside the cities where (PH chairman) Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the star speaker, for example in Bera, Pahang, many people attended, but I did not see them giving their commitment to PH,” the IDE deputy chairman told The Malaysian Insight.
Unlike GE12 in 2008 when Barisan Nasional lost its two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time since 1969, there was no “euphoria”, Redzuan said.
Even arguments about the rising cost of living were not enough to sway Malay voters against the ruling coalition.
“Because, even though many people are affected by higher living costs, it has not reached the stage where they have nothing to eat.
“I observed during the recent Hadi Raya Haji in Perak and Pahang, plenty of cows were sacrificed, as many as 10 for a village,” said Redzuan, a former Universiti Malaya lecturer who is now vice-chancellor of Universiti Selangor (Unisel).
Many voters had also made up their minds, he added.
A survey by IDE from August 11 to 16 this year, involving 4,486 respondents in 130 out of 165 federal seats in the peninsula, found that 50% of voters had already decided who to vote for.
Tsunami and dominoes
In GE13 in 2013, Malays formed 59% of regular voters in Peninsular Malaysia, according to research firm Politweet, which also analysed where these votes went.
BN got 51% of the Malay vote in the peninsula in that election, while PAS, Umno’s main rival, won 21% of Malay votes.
PAS, together with DAP’s share of 9% and PKR’s 19% of Malay votes, took 49% of the Malay bloc in the Peninsular as a coalition under the now dissolved Pakatan Rakyat.
Two years later, the term “Malay tsunami” was first used by DAP strategist Liew Chin Tong in an article “Peninsular Domino”. He predicted a change in votes by Malays in Umno seats in the next election.
Liew, the Kluang MP said the main battlegrounds in GE14 would be in marginal seats won by Umno in 2013 with majorities of less than 10%. There are 32 such seats in the peninsula.
Of Umno’s 88 federal seats won in 2013, Liew said 73 were from the peninsula and the lynchpin party in BN was expected to lose 30 seats in rural areas.
Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin revived the term again this year when he said he expected a huge wave of Malay votes to oust Umno and BN from the federal government.
Ilham Centre executive director Hisommudin Bakar said politicians were using the term to inspire hope and positive thinking, but doubted that a real tsunami of Malay votes would happen.
His pessimism is based on history, citing the Reformasi years after Dr Mahathir sacked Anwar Ibrahim from government in 1998.
Although it shook the Malay electorate and turned many to the opposition in the 1999 general election, Hisommudin said the shake-up was not big enough.
“It did not happen on a national scale because there were not enough Malay voters in the central and southern states of the peninsula to turn the tide, while the non-Malay vote was still strongly behind BN. So, no Malay tsunami happened.”
Hisommudin added that subsidy mentality and dependence on one-off aid from the government, such as BR1M, was a huge obstacle for the opposition in the interior areas.
“It puts a real damper on any support for PH after Felda announced incentives for settlers, and at Hari Raya Haji, the settlers received RM5,000 in each of their accounts.
He said PH will find it hard to achieve its goal of wresting 54 parliamentary seats and 93 state seats in 319 Felda settlements.
“This is the challenge that PH has to overcome if they want to penetrate Malay-majority areas.”
Former University Sains Malaysia lecturer Prof Dr Ahmad Story Hussain also agreed that a Malay tsunami was unlikely because BN had more advantage in terms of election machinery and finances.
The “Dr Mahathir factor” might help the opposition, but even then, any win will be by a slim margin, he said.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT