KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — Domestic political instability, which includes ethnic and religious tensions, was listed as the top security challenge for Malaysia in 2020, according to a new poll.
In the “State of Southeast Asia 2020” survey by the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, 81 per cent of those surveyed in Malaysia named domestic political instability as the most pronounced security challenge in 2020.
The 2020 figure was up from 45.9 per cent in the previous year's poll.
A total of 1,308 respondents from all ten Asean member states participated in the 2020 survey, with 222 respondents from Malaysia.
The Pakatan Harapan government previously clinched a shock victory over Barisan Nasional in the May 2018 general election.
On January 10, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad acknowledged Pakatan’s shortcomings and conceded that there exist disturbances in the ruling coalition which were normal. He also assured that the country was still politically stable.
According to the survey, the second security concern for Malaysia was economic downturn, with 73 per cent of respondents stating so.
The 2020 figure was also up from 63.7 per cent in the previous year’s poll.
The think-tank added that the ordering of security concerns in the 2020 findings were identical to the 2019 results — (in descending order) domestic political instability, economic downturn, climate change, increased military tensions and terrorism.
Overall, the think-tank said domestic political instability, including ethnic and religious tensions (70.5 per cent), economic downturn (68.5 per cent) and climate change (66.8 per cent) were considered the three most pressing security concerns for the region.
It said, however, that the 2019 and 2020 figures were not comparable as the latter
survey offered five instead of six options by collapsing the “ethnic and religious tensions” into the domestic politics option.
Since losing the general election, Malay nationalist Umno has teamed up with Islamist PAS to form a bloc targeting Malay-Muslim support, in a move that has elicited concerns that this will fuel racial and religious polarisation in the country.