Umno ratcheted up the racial rhetoric last weekend, highlighting concerns within the ruling party that its grip on the crucial Malay vote bank could slip after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad formally took charge of the opposition last Friday.
The former prime minister led the dominant Malay party for 22 years before retiring in 2003 and, despite misgivings from civil society, the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance aims to use the 92-year-old’s influence to break Umno’s stranglehold on the Malay community that makes up the majority in more than half of the parliamentary districts.
With a general election due in a year’s time, politicians and analysts expect to see increased pandering to Malay-Muslim insecurities in the coming months.
On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said polls would be held after September, amid speculation that Prime Minister Najib Razak would call an election after the Aug 19-30 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
“Umno has to work extra hard to defend its turf as Barisan Nasional’s (BN) ethnic minority parties have so far not mounted a credible challenge against the opposition… leading to a more racially tinged campaign from both sides,” Vriens & Partners political analyst Adib Zalkapli told The Straits Times.
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