Monday, 16 March 2015
Race-based parties growing more irrelevant, survey shows
Malaysian voters overwhelmingly want political parties which take care of all Malaysians, rather than ones that fight for just their own race and religion, a survey has shown, even as ruling parties Umno, MIC and MCA continue to rely on race-based politics to drum up support.
The survey, commissioned by The Malaysian Insider, found that the racial rhetoric these parties thrive on is not consistent with what Malaysians want.
Of all the respondents polled, 76.9% said they preferred a party that was inclusive over one that catered to just their community.
This preference cuts across race, age and the political divide, the survey carried out by independent pollster Merdeka Center found.
In terms of ethnicity, 67.5% of Malays, 91.4% Chinese and 89.2% Indians polled said they preferred a party that takes care of all Malaysians.
Only 27.8% Malays answered otherwise, despite the rise of vocal Malay/Muslim pressure groups such as Perkasa and Isma, which claim to represent thousands of members and are demanding that Umno to do more to protect the Malays.
“What Barisan Nasional stands for – race-based politics – is growing increasingly out of sync among the electorate. Even among the Malays. It’s only the really hardcore who want race-based politics,” Ibrahim Suffian, the director of Merdeka Center, told The Malaysian Insider.
And despite Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s increasingly right-leaning stance, 73.4% of Barisan Nasional supporters who were surveyed said they wanted a party which takes care of all races.
Meanwhile, 77% of respondents who were still undecided about which party to support said a party that caters to all races could represent them during voting time.
Most Malaysians also said the most important quality they looked for in a candidate during elections was one with good relationships with all ethnic groups.
“It is clear from the survey that Barisan Nasional is running behind and that it’s playing catch up with the public, who are open to less race-based parties and want ones that cater for all Malaysians,” said Ibrahim.
“And you have a big chunk not affiliated with either side, who are looking at what the politicians can deliver. These Malaysians are no longer dependent on the mainstream media, they can make up their own minds.”
However, Ibrahim said this did not necessarily spell the end of Barisan Nasional, because many Malaysians who were unable to sit well with the race-based politics were willing to overlook it, as long as the ruling coalition continued to deliver.
“Their supporters think, ‘yes, I don’t agree with the politics of BN, but it puts food on the table, it gives me jobs, and it prevents the other guys from taking over’. So you’ve got people still voting for them,” said Ibrahim.
In a testament to the 52% of Malaysians who voted for Pakatan Rakyat during the 2013 general election, the survey revealed that when voting, most Malaysians (63.2%) regardless of race looked for a party leadership that promoted change or reform, as opposed to one that preserved the status quo (25.6%).
Interestingly, supporters of the incumbent, BN, were split on the issue, with 46.8% saying they wanted a party leadership that espoused change, and 42.2% saying otherwise.
Party leadership is the main consideration most Malaysians (45.1%) take into account when voting, the survey showed, while only 17.3% and 15% said the party or candidate being fielded in their area, respectively, was their number one concern.
Change and reform had been among Najib’s buzzwords when he took on the Umno presidency in 2009, but the prime minister has had to dial back on his reforms – most notably his promise to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 – following pressure from within his own party.
The survey involved 1,008 respondents of voting age, who were interviewed by telephone from January 21 to 30 and chosen through the random stratified sampling method along the lines of ethnicity, gender, age and parliamentary constituencies.
All parliamentary constituencies were surveyed and the selection of the respondents is proportional with respect to the population.