Pakatan, BN manifestos will avoid ‘controversial’ issues, say analysts

Political pundits pointed out that both the Opposition and BN were unlikely to take firm positions on racial and religious issues such as Bumiputera policies and the rights of minority groups in their quest to pursue the Malay vote. — Picture by Farhan Najib Yusoff
Political pundits pointed out that both the Opposition and BN were unlikely to take firm positions on racial and religious issues such as Bumiputera policies and the rights of minority groups in their quest to pursue the Malay vote. — Picture by Farhan Najib Yusoff

KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 — Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto will likely focus on combating corruption and improving the economy, while Barisan Nasional (BN) will presumably highlight its successes in governing the country, analysts said.

Political pundits pointed out, however, that both the Opposition and ruling coalitions were unlikely to take firm positions on racial and religious issues such as Bumiputera policies and the rights of minority groups in their quest to pursue the Malay vote.

“I expect BN’s manifesto to be more of the same as in the past, which is dealing with generalities of how much a success story Malaysia is; while Pakatan’s will focus on the misgovernance and mismanagement of economy and society,” Centre for Policy Initiatives director Lim Teck Ghee told Malay Mail Online.

“Both will avoid taking a stand on the hot button issue of Bumiputera policies and minority rights. Other critical subjects such as educational development and civil service size will also probably be couched in terms designed to sooth the Malay-dominant electorate,” he added.

Malay Mail Online reported Thursday the stands of Pakatan Harapan parties PKR, DAP, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) on various issues, including Bumiputera policies, education, human rights, democracy, minority protections, the environment, crime and public safety, foreign policy, and terrorism.

Some Pakatan Harapan member parties had differing stands on certain matters, such as child marriage, marital rape and unilateral child conversion. They also had unclear positions on many topics, such as Bumiputera policies, moral policing, local council elections, protection for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, and the South China Sea.

Pakatan Harapan and BN have yet to unveil their official manifestos ahead of the 14th general election due by August next year.

Independent analyst Khoo Kay Peng said Pakatan Harapan was a loosely-formed electoral pact and its member parties were “territorial”.

“Without a clear national leadership, it is hard to align their stand,” Khoo told Malay Mail Online.

“BN, of course, will say that they have balanced Bumi agenda and minority rights. Pakatan won’t be much different, especially with them going after Malay votes and Bersatu in the fray,” he said.

Oh Ei Sun, adjunct senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto would likely address corruption and the economy as those were “definitely non-controversial and considered most urgent by many voters”.

“Then it will be a splatter of other non-controversial issues, such as increasing science and math proficiencies, regulating political finance etc. Nothing too spectacular. BN will be harping on their contributions over past 60 years — various measures to help people with hardship, to revive economy etc,” Oh told Malay Mail Online.

He pointed out, however, that unlike in the UK or other developed countries, a political manifesto has never been a key deciding factor in Malaysian elections.

“People typically go with their gut feelings for or against a certain party. In fact, often manifestos are not even announced till well into the campaigning season. Voters do not seriously expect politicians to uphold their manifestos after election,” he said, citing low political awareness among the electorate.

Penang Institute executive director Ooi Kee Beng said Pakatan Harapan would likely focus on governance issues and scandals in the current BN administration, as well as bread-and-butter issues like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and on ensuring government spending is more targeted at creating jobs for locals.

“Saving Umno and the Malays from insidious attacks from all fronts will continue to be BN’s strategic logic,” Ooi told Malay Mail Online.

He also said Malaysians should not expect clear policies from the Opposition at this time.

“That wouldn’t even be fair because I don’t think Malaysian politics function that way. We should not use a western model of electoral expectations to describe and prescribe the local case. The more that is formulated too early, the more tamed the campaigning will become, and that, in the Malaysian context, would not be to an opposition candidate’s advantage,” he added.