KUALA LUMPUR: A non-Malay is unlikely to become prime minister largely because Malaysian society and politics is divided along ethnoreligious lines.
It is certainly impossible for a non-Malay to become prime minister after the next general election, which must be held by August 2018, according to a report in Asean Today.
Although, in theory, it is possible for a non-Malay to be prime minister, the politics is such that it will not happen.
The report quoted former minister Zaid Ibrahim as saying: “Any Malaysian can aspire to be prime minister, and that position must be supported by all of us who want this country to prosper. The only qualification for the premiership is that this person must be acceptable to the majority of the people of this country.”
It also noted Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s recent statement that no non-Muslim wanted to become the country’s prime minister.
It said there were few prominent non-Malay candidates and none in the running to become prime minister.
Even if there were, the Asean Today report said many Malays would refuse to accept a non-Muslim leader.
It gave as example the outrage that followed Prime Minister Najib Razak’s announcement that the government would consider the request from Indian Muslims to give them Malay status.
This outrage, it said, was another indicator that Malays would not follow non-Malay leadership.
Noting that all six of Malaysia’s prime ministers were Malay, the report said all those currently in contention for the post – whether from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) or the opposition – were Malay, despite what the BN had been saying.
The report said Najib’s Umno had adopted “a siege mentality” and was claiming that if another party were to win the election, it would be a disaster for the Malays.
Umno believed that if the opposition were to come to power, they would undo decades of work that had promoted Malay and Muslim interests, the Asean Today report added.
In addition, it noted, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang had said that Malays should govern the country due to their position as the ethnic majority.
The report added: “There is a sense that those in power are keen to prevent non-Malay and non-Muslim rule in the future.”
The Asean Today report noted that PAS’ move towards the BN left the Pakatan Harapan parties more vulnerable at the ballot box than Najib’s and it was likely that Umno and PAS would form an electoral pact.
It quoted James Chin, director of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute, as saying: “My take is that there will be no formal electoral pact but an understanding that PAS will put up a candidate in all the Malay-majority seats (about 110-120), thus dividing the opposition vote. If this were to happen, it is almost certain that Umno will return to power.”
The report said as both Umno and PAS delivered stronger pro-Malay and pro-Islam rhetoric, it made for an environment in which non-Malay rule was highly unlikely.
The more those in power reinforced the idea that Malays must govern, the less palatable the alternative appeared, the report said.-FMT NEWS-