Pakatan Harapan (PH) appears to have changed gear in its campaign narrative, with familiar calls of "kleptocrats" and "bandits" nowhere to be heard ahead of the Padang Serai polls in Kedah tomorrow.
Sharing the stage with Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders at a ceramah in Kampung Tunku Putra last night, speakers instead spoke of unity and avoiding racial animosity while attacking Perikatan Nasional (PN), PH's main challenger in the election.
Economic Affairs Minister Rafizi Ramli said the racial sentiments he was now witnessing were the worst he had ever seen, describing them as the number one enemy of the Malaysian people.
"Between us politicians fighting to manage the sentiments of hate, it is more important for us to address such sentiments on the outside," he said, referring to the PN campaign.
The "Aduh Malaysia" song, created by PKR rapper Altimet and heavily featured during the general election, was also absent from the final leg of the campaign period.
The label of "kleptocrat" became widespread in Malaysia at the height of the 1MDB scandal several years ago.
It was utilised in PH campaigns and eventually became synonymous with former prime minister Najib Razak and other BN leaders.
The shift in attack to PN also marked a significant change from PH's traditional strategy of slamming BN, amid scrutiny of the partnership between the long-time foes – due in part to Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is facing a slew of criminal charges in court.
Zahid, who leads the Umno court cluster, previously said that BN would need to win the 15th general election (GE15) if its leaders did not want to be dragged to court over a range of offences.
The Bagan Datuk MP, who was made one of two deputy prime ministers in the new Cabinet, currently faces 47 charges linked to the misuse of millions belonging to charity outfit Yayasan Akalbudi.
Speaking at the campaign event last night, he followed the script of PH leaders, speaking about the need for mutual respect among the ethnic groups.
Racial issues were a hot topic in the aftermath of GE15, with the authorities keeping a sharp eye on the situation and PH instructing its supporters not to rally or celebrate in order to bring down the political temperature after the polls.
Supporters and grassroots from PH and BN alike were also urged to put aside their differences after the formation of the coalition government at the federal level.
"We will face difficult situations and we need a stable government. In order to be stable, it is time for us to put aside our previous conflicts," said Rafizi.
Home Minister Saifudin Nasution meanwhile cited the example of race riots in an African country as a warning to Malaysians.
The Padang Serai polls was to have witnessed a six-way fight among PN's Azman Nasrudin, C Sivaraj of BN, Pejuang's Hamzah Abdul Rahman, Mohamed Sofee Razak of PH, Warisan candidate Mohd Bakri Hashim, and independent Sreanandha Rao.
Sivaraj and Bakri however withdrew from the contest to give way to the PH candidate.
The election in Padang Serai was postponed following the death of PH candidate M Karupaiya on Nov 16.