Former Johor Umno chief Mohamad Khaled Nordin claimed today that a dominant Umno in a BN coalition would offer political stability as there would be less bickering among coalition partners.
There may be less bickering simply because Umno would be calling the shots! Coalition partners would have no choice but to go along with Umno unless Umno chooses to accommodate them when it suits their purposes.
Non-Malays would have to be wary of a dominant Umno especially if Umno wins a majority of seats in its traditional strongholds which represent only a minority of the Malays because the majority of Malays are no longer there as they have migrated to the urban areas.
According to the 2020 national census, 75.1% of Malaysia’s population is urban and the remaining 24.9% is rural, which would suggest that the majority of the Malay population has now become urban.
When the reverse was true — when the majority of the Malay population was rural — the state and parliamentary constituencies were delineated in such a way as to give them majority representation. The Malay population distribution has changed due to urban migration but the constituencies have not been redelineated to cater to the change in the Malay population distribution.
As a result, the Malay rural areas are over-represented while the majority of Malays in the urban areas are under-represented. This is the reason why Malay parties can still form a majority on their number of rural seats.
This is also the reason why the Johor state elections are very important in showing if the under-represented Malay majority in the urban areas will come out to vote and choose the party that can best increase their representation and serves their interests.
If Umno returns as the dominant party in the Johor state elections on winning the majority of rural seats, it will be a return to the old Umno dictating politics to appease its over-represented conservative rural minority and it will be old politics all over again.
If however, Umno makes inroads in the urban Malay-majority seats and forms a majority government, there will be tension between rural and urban Malay interests and that would make it as politically unstable as the governments of the last two years unless Umno wins a majority of the urban Malay-majority seats, which is unlikely as many Malay parties are vying for the same seats.
The battle will be in the urban Malay-majority seats — if the urban Malay majority goes out to vote. It will be interesting to see if voter turnout will be high in these seats.
The first hurdle of parties whose candidates are standing for election in these seats is to draw the voters out. The next hurdle is to clearly outline what each party can offer.
After the Sheraton Move and the failures of the past two years, voters may be disenchanted and prefer not to vote. Johor voters need to be told that for the first time in Malaysian history they have a choice to change their destiny.
Pejuang, Muda and Warisan are the new parties they can choose from. They don’t have the baggage that Umno/BN, PKR/Pakatan Harapan and Bersatu/Perikatan Nasional parties come with. If the voters want to start on a clean slate, these are the parties to consider. These parties need to position themselves as such and work hard to engage the voters and present themselves as the best alternative to serve their interests.
The non-Malays, too, have a key role to play in the current political scenario — if they come out to vote. They too must be wooed to vote and not stay at home. Political parties need to clearly present to them what benefits they will gain from voting for them for a new better tomorrow. The parties representing them will have the chance to form a coalition with the Malay-based parties to form a government that truly represents all the people groups in the state.
Khaled who had spoken of a “dominant” Umno in the BN coalition as reported in the media also said that the BN’s approach to Malaysia’s multi-cultural background is “integration, not assimilation”. That may appeal to non-Malays. In practice, however, it may not be encouraged if it upsets Umno’s traditional voters.
The alternative is the new parties. Individually, they may not be dominant but together in a new coalition, the minnows may actually be able to deny Umno the dominant majority.
Towards that end, the new political parties need to work extra hard to convince the voters that they can deliver. Contrary to the pre-election consensus that Johor will follow Malacca in voting for Umno, all the focussed hard work of the new parties may actually pay off!