The term ‘Malay Tsunami’ was attributed to DAP Strategist Liew Chin Tong in the aftermath of the results 13th General Election, who must have first conceived it more out of desperation rather than any tangible hope. This is because the racial demographics in Malaysia, the history, the socio-political system and even the constitution as it is interpreted in the current setting makes Malaysia firmly a Malay dominated nation. Without the support of the Malays, the Opposition coalition of the day will remain just that – the members of the minority of the country’s legislative assembly.
In all honesty, the idea of the UMNO dominated Barisan Nasional government losing the support of the Malays in the age of extreme polarization among the races was inconceivable even as late as mid 2017. Malays occupied power within the entire Federal Governments and many State Governments, law enforcement, the judiciary, the religious establishment and even the sprawling Government linked companies . The Government’s role in influencing the life of the Malay population was almost total and for many, this literally covered from the cradle to the grave.
Then something happened in between the spring of 2017 and early 2018.
The reason has much to do with the same reason that propelled Donald Trump to the Presidency, an event that the Rembau Times predicted in its ground breaking piece , which was made 2 days before the US Election when every opinion poll had put Hilary Clinton ahead. As it stands, the Rembau Times is sticking with its call that this election will see a change of Government, and today we will provide the reason why this now looks more likely than ever. We will explore the financial implication of this on the near term economy in another piece, though we caution that the near term implication is not positive as the investment community is still basing investment decisions on BN winning a strong mandate.
The reason behind this is down to a combination of many factors, where the sum is greater than the parts. But to put things in context, there are some factors which play a bigger role, which we will focus initially.
The number one factor, which was put very simply to us by a new voter we interviewed, a Malay youth in a traditional BN voting state was this – “I am looking for a Government which cares for the people.”
And to the state the obvious, he was not talking about BN as he proceeded to describe the current leadership in most polite ‘macam itulah’ put down whilst shaking his head.
As simple as this sounds, this gets missed by those who occupy the corridors of power. The Democrats in their ‘globalist agenda’ run roughshod over the rust belts and took the support of the Blue Dog Democrats in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan for granted. Similarly, the BN Government has failed miserably in actually making life easier for a vast segment of the Malay community, especially Malay youths and young parents with families.
Malay youths currently are perhaps the most economically pressed segment in the Malaysian community. Most of them were members of large families, and only recently entered the adult life due to the population explosion created from the late 1980s, when the country’s economic development was strongest. Until they entered adulthood, most of them were lulled into a sense of complacency that the Government will provide a quality of life commensurate with their expectations. However, as Malaysia fell into the middle income trap and imported vast quantities of foreign labor, their chances for achieving economic well-being was stunted and they are now a largely forgotten segment of society, unable to even dream of owning a house due to low wages and high cost of housing. This is the segment that BN should be most afraid of – “the angry young Malay male.”
The second reason is the GST, and the reason is due to Behavioral Finance. Revenues from the Goods and Services Tax is expected to exceed RM 42 billion this year. This means that over a 5 year term, the Government will collect something of the order of RM 210 billion from the population, which will disproportionately be over represented by Malays due to their demographic makeup. This is not a small sum and the impact has been seen through rising prices, which is predicted by basic microeconomics. Now, other Governments do collect GST, but in return they give some semblance of good governance or they do away with elections. This is because the tax payer now sees themselves as paying for Government services and any notion that the Government should expect the citizens of being in a state of perpetual gratefulness and subservience is not reflective of economic or political reality.
Of course, the discussion is not complete without mentioning that nauseous word – 1MDB. The answer is that 1MDB does not matter and 1MDB is precisely the reason for BN’s downfall.
The rural voter cannot understand nor does he or she want to understand the 1MDB issue. However, the 1MDB scandal is the reason for the biggest threat facing BN, because it motivated the one of the most influential persons in the history of Malaysia as an independent nation, and the architect of the Government system as it is now to go on a ‘do or die’ mission to take on his creation. And like it or not, even at the age of 92, Tun Mahathir still has the presence and the oratorical skill to hold his audience. The Pribumi led alliance now uses him as the ‘main event’, and people are willing to brave the rain and stay up late to hear him. Now even though the 1MDB issue does not matter, the longer Tun Dr Mahathir talks about the scandal, the more his audience will be ‘mentally conditioned’ to see the Prime Minister the way Tun Dr Mahathir portrays him. And this is disastrous for the Government that is joined to the hip of the Prime Minister.
Malay youths are now openly saying that Pribumi, is the natural successor of their political aspirations and bear no loyalty to UMNO. Or in their words, ‘Pribumi semakin rancak.’
What is worse is that the emergence of a more youth based party is in contrast to UMNO embracing feudalism more than ever before. Feudalism is a dead and is totally against how the Malay society is evolving into a consumer based society. This form of feudalism where old faces never retire is in stark contrast to the new approach formulated by Pribumi, which offers more advantages than UMNO without the cost. Pribumi gives the forgotten Malay community, the rural Gen 2 voters, the ‘angry young male’ and even the disappointed hardcore UMNO voter a chance to participate in the political process in a way that UMNO in its current form can never hope to even match.
The greatest threat still lies in wait for BN. The Pribumi led Opposition alliance has begun to show its capability in successfully organizing mass gatherings in traditional UMNO states. Now, for this to be achieved by a party that is not even a year old in public consciousness, and that without the backing of PAS which had long provided the organisational backbone of the Opposition can only mean one of 2 conclusions.
Which is, the BN machinery at the grassroots is now being converted to support Pribumi, or that Pribumi is attracting new individuals to its core organisational structure. These same factors resulted in the history making US Presidential election, and we see it playing out here in Malaysia as well.