Thursday 2 June 2011

Umno has lost Malay middle class, says EIU

KUALA LUMPUR, June 2 — Despite continued support from rural voters, Umno appears to have been rejected by urban Malays, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Its latest country report on Malaysia said that the “decline in support may have intensified” among middle-class Malays due to Internet sites “exposing government corruption and political intrigues of individual members of the ruling administration.”

“Although voters in the rural heartland of Peninsular Malaysia continue to support Umno, there have been suggestions that the party has lost the support of a significant number of educated, liberal middle-class Malays,” the research arm of the London-based Economist weekly said.

But the EIU also warned that “conservative Malays have meanwhile been voicing concerns about the government’s plan to reform policies favouring Bumiputera (ethnic Malays and other indigenous peoples), as they believe that the special rights accorded to them in the constitution may be rescinded.”

Racial and religious tension has escalated of late with right-wing Malays accusing the Chinese community of trying to usurp political power.

A few weeks ago, Umno’s Utusan Malaysia accused church and DAP leaders of plotting to install a Christian prime minister and turning Malaysia into a Christian state.

The Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) has also strung together consecutive by-election victories recently in rural and semi-urban constituencies with an increased majority among Malay voters.

But observers say that the April 16 Sarawak election saw an urban-rural divide which resulted in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties more than double its tally from seven to 15 seats in the 71-member state assembly.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is expected to call a general election within the year where BN will expect an improvement on the 2008 result.

He had replaced Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Umno president in 2009 after the former prime minister had led BN to its worst-ever election showing, ceding 82 parliamentary seats and five state governments.
Regaining the ruling coalition’s customary two-thirds majority in Parliament appears to be the only guarantee that the Pekan MP will stay in power.

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