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Malaysia election: 3-way split in Malay vote, most Chinese voted PH

With most Chinese voting for PH, analysts raise concerns of race and religion being used to win support

Chinese Malaysian voters overwhelmingly voted for Pakatan Harapan (PH) in last month's general election, helping the four-party alliance secure a big victory.

And while many Malays voted for PH too, the number of voters from Malaysia's majority ethnic group was split into three, early estimates by pollster Merdeka Centre found.

About 95 per cent of Chinese voters chose PH on May 9, a jump from the 2013 election when some 85 per cent of Chinese supported the now-defunct opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

On the other hand, Malay loyalty was divided between the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN), Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and PH, according to the Merdeka estimates.

Analysts and politicians say the three-way split has big implications for Malaysia in the coming years, as there will be a tug of war for Malay support among the three political factions.

Some 35-40 per cent of Malays voted BN, 30-33 per cent supported PAS, and 25-30 per cent picked PH, according to Merdeka.

A higher percentage of Malays voted for PH in Johor and in west coast states such as Melaka and Negeri Sembilan - allowing PH to win in those states. But the overall Malay support was pulled down by weak PH performance in Kelantan and Terengganu, with several PH candidates losing their deposits.

Some 60-70 per cent of ethnic Indians, the third major group in Peninsular Malaysia, chose PH, a surge from the 40 per cent who voted for the defunct Pakatan Rakyat in 2013.

The figures from Merdeka are used because official data from the Election Commission has not been declared.

The voting pattern showed that BN and PAS captured 70-75 per cent of the Malay vote.

TRUST FACTOR

Merdeka's research manager, Mr Tan Seng Keat, said that while many traditional BN supporters were unhappy with former premier Najib Razak and his goods and services tax, they also did not quite trust PH, which some see as being controlled by the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP).

"Propaganda indoctrination over all these years cannot change in just a few days of campaigning even with Tun Mahathir there. For them, Umno is a Malay party, a Muslim party, they feel safe," Mr Tan told The Straits Times.

Islamist party PAS, which many analysts had expected to be wiped out, not only retained the Kelantan state legislature, but also captured Terengganu.

The split Malay vote means that PH leaders must tread carefully in framing issues deemed sensitive to Malays if they want to gain their trust.

On the other hand, both Umno and PAS would try to woo the community by using the familiar baits of race and religion.

This can already be seen in the Malay backlash over the pick by PH of non-Malays as finance minister and attorney-general .

There is also Malay anger over the perceived insult to the monarchy following news reports that the Malaysian King had delayed by two weeks the appointment of A-G Tommy Thomas, as well as a leak that the King spent RM257 million (S$86million) for his own upkeep and personal expenditure in the last 14 months to April.

While PH supporters are hailing the birth of "Malaysia Baharu" (New Malaysia) with the alliance's victory, analysts caution against any fast moves into sensitive areas.

Said Mr Amir Fareed Rahim, analyst at the KRA Group political consultancy: "If PH continues to push through what is seen as a 'liberal' agenda such as demonising royals, if Umno is not ready in five years, Malays will go to PAS."

Two top Malaysian judges resign

KUALA LUMPUR Malaysia's two most senior judges have resigned from their posts, as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's government purges top officials seen as close to the previous administration.

The list of top officials who have either been removed from or quit their posts has grown over the past month, after Dr Mahathir's opposition coalition won in the May 9 General Election.

Chief Justice Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin will step down from their posts on July 31, according to a statement issued by the chief registrar's office of the federal court.

"His Majesty the King had given his assent to their resignation on June 8," the statement read.

Malaysia's legal fraternity had challenged the decision by the government of ousted prime minister Najib Razak to appoint Mr Raus and Mr Zulkefli last year, arguing that the two judges had already exceeded the retirement age.

Last week, Malaysia appointed a new attorney-general who said there would be "no cover-ups" and that he would pursue criminal and civil action over a graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was founded by Mr Najib.

Attorney-General Tommy Thoma replaced Mr Mohamed Apandi Ali, who in 2016 cleared Mr Najib of wrongdoing in the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal.

Mr Najib has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

Central bank governor Muhammad Ibrahim also resigned last week. His exit is seen as a fallout from the 1MDB scandal, after the Finance Ministry saidUS$500 million (S$668 million) raised from a land sale by the government to the central bank was used to pay 1MDB's liabilities last year. - REUTERS

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