By Joseph Sipalan
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 – Malaysia’s majority Malay ethnic group must secure a dominant position in new national elections to ensure political stability in the country, an Islamist party leader who is also a senior figure within the ruling coalition said on Wednesday.
Malaysia has faced political uncertainty since then-premier Mahathir Mohamad resigned in February and a new government was formed with a razor-thin majority in parliament.
Mahathir was replaced by Muhyiddin Yassin, once his close associate, with the backing of the Bersatu party and two others representing Malays – the scandal-tainted United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).
PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang said fresh polls were needed to increase Malay representation in parliament and legitimise the ruling Perikatan Nasional coalition’s claim to power.
“To ensure political stability, it is important to have the race that dominates society to lead the government,” Abdul Hadi said in an interview.
Ethnic Malays, who are predominantly Muslim, make up about 60% of Malaysia’s population of 32 million, with the rest mostly ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indians.
PAS has for decades pushed to establish an Islamic state in Malaysia, at times seeking harsher penalties on Muslims for crimes such as adultery and consuming alcohol under Islamic law.
“Areas that are majority Muslim should be represented by Muslims, and likewise areas that are majority non-Muslim should be represented by non-Muslims,” said Abdul Hadi.
Muhyiddin’s coalition narrowly won a vote to replace the lower house speaker, but then suffered a setback when UMNO declared it would support the government but withdraw from the coalition after its former leader Najib Razak was sentenced to jail over the 1MDB scandal.
Abdul Hadi said coalition parties would continue backing Muhyiddin’s leadership and nominate him as their prime ministerial candidate in a new election.
“If you mix the support for PAS, UMNO and Bersatu, there are many seats that we can win. We may be able to win a two-thirds majority,” said Abdul Hadi, predicting polls would take place sometime between the end of this year and early 2021. (Reporting by Joseph Sipalan Editing by Ed Davies)