KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — Umno’s Utusan Malaysia front-paged today the question “Apa lagi Cina mahu (What else do the Chinese want?) in what appeared to be an attempt to shape the results of Election 2013 as a Chinese-vs-Malay vote.
Analysts have said data from voting trends showed the outcome of Election 2013 was not simply the result of a “Chinese tsunami” as Datuk Seri Najib Razak has claimed but a major swing in the urban and middle-class electorate that saw Malaysia’s urban-rural rift widen.
But Utusan Malaysia, a newspaper that has represented the right-wing forces aligned largely with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, decided today to publish a number of stories blaming the Chinese for dividing Malaysia.
In the wrap-around front page today, Utusan Malaysia published a number of photographs which allegedly showed Chinese-looking youths wearing black to protest the results of the election.
The photographs are believed to have been lifted from the Internet and were also used by many right-wing bloggers aligned with Dr Mahathir.
Other stories highlighted on the front page include a quote attributed to former Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam that “they (Chinese) are very racist”.
In bullet points, the newspaper blamed the DAP for race politics, and said the secular party wanted Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister so that it could rule the country.
Utusan Malaysia’s front page suggests that Najib will have his hands full dealing with the powerful right-wing faction in Umno from which he received strong backing in the elections.
An analysis of how the vote went shows a country with rural-urban and class divisions that will make any reconciliation and necessary reforms even more difficult to implement.
The need to continue dismantling Bumiputera policies and to introduce the controversial bitter pill of a Goods and Services Tax (GST) — steps necessary to make Malaysia more competitive and lift it out of a middle-income trap — appears to be even more daunting because of the conflicting tug-of-war between the two Malaysias that have emerged.
Yesterday, a former editor of the Umno-owned New Straits Times said BN’s weaker showing in Election 2013 points to a strong wave of rejection from all Malaysians and not just from the minority Chinese.
Datuk A. Kadir Jasin observed that the 13-party coalition not only drew fewer seats in the 222-member Dewan Rakyat and 12 state assemblies in yesterday’s general election compared to 2008, but also lost the popular vote for the first time since polls in 1969.
“Is it not possible that this is not a Chinese tsunami or racial chauvinism but a Malaysian tsunami that is centred on the aspiration and new reality, especially among young voters?” the man who had been group editor-in-chief of the public-listed News Straits Times Press during the Mahathir administration wrote in his blog.
Najib had alluded to a “Chinese tsunami” in an immediate speech just after midnight on Sunday when the Election Commission announced the BN as winners by a simple majority, but the veteran journalist brushed aside the perception as unlikely.
Kadir highlighted that BN took a severe beating this round and bled more seats at both the federal and state levels compared to 2008, leaving it with only 133 federal seats and 274 out of the 505 total state seats despite wresting back Kedah from the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) pact.
While Chinese votes clearly swung to the opposition in greater numbers than ever before, PR’s securing of the popular vote suggests that the Malay vote swing would be potentially more alarming for Umno.
Utusan Malaysia’s decision to fly the right-wing flag will almost certainly alienate more moderate and urban Malays.
In their preliminary reading of the vote trend, analysts noted that despite the increase in Chinese support for PR, the political tsunami had also swept with it “large numbers of the Malays”, many among them forming part of the country’s middle- to upper-class voters.
“They received Malay middle-class support, especially in urban areas,” political analyst Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin told The Malaysian Insider, referring to PR.
“So the DAP majority increased because of disgruntled Malay young voters’ support... in conclusion, to label racial polarisation is too easy. Two other factors operate simultaneously with race: class (rich-poor, middle class) and spatial (urban and rural),” said the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) founding director of Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA).
Although BN retained power on Sunday, the coalition lost major cities and towns from George Town to Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Seremban, Malacca and big towns in Johor.
BN failed to win Selangor and Penang — two of the most industrialised states in Malaysia — although it retook Kedah, the mostly-rural rice-bowl state.