Government parties appear to be struggling with the perennial question of Malay support, analysts say on the heels of the inroads made by Perikatan Nasional (PN) at the 15th general election (GE15) and recent remarks seen as widening the gap in support from the ethnic group.
Speaking to MalaysiaNow, they said party leaders were beginning to show signs of no longer pinning their hopes on Malay support, citing for example the omission of aid schemes for Felda settlers in the newly tabled budget for 2023.
Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail meanwhile was heavily criticised by some quarters after saying that young voters with low levels of education and income had supported PN at the polls last year.
Analyst Anis Anwar Suhaimi of 02 Research Malaysia said these examples showed a lack of understanding of the socio-economic grievances of the Malays.
"Reading the data without a deep understanding of the Malay sensibilities will lead to a distorted interpretation of the group, especially the urban centric assessment," he told MalaysiaNow.
He also referred to the differences in Malay voting pattern at GE13, GE14 and GE15, describing them as a message to political leaders gunning for their support.
In terms of education and income levels, he said these alone do not symbolise the quality of a democracy but rather show that each community has its own demands of the government.
"National policies that do not meet the aspirations of the Malays, coupled with a prejudiced view of their demographics, will invite a more reactive response," he said.
"This is especially given the upcoming state elections, which will be a second testing ground in determining the support of the Malays, particularly in Malay-majority areas."
Hisommudin Bakar of think tank Ilham Centre meanwhile said that support for PN had actually come from all age groups, going by the results of the last election.
In Malay-majority states, he said, PN had seen a two-fold increase in support across all voting channels from the support experienced by its parties at the previous polls.
"The non-Malays are less inclined towards PN," he said.
"Saifuddin's remarks might have been more about appeasing the PH machinery."