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Analysts see Malay support in the balance after Muhyiddin charges

They say time will tell, especially with six state elections to come this year.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
2 minute read
Supporters of former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin gather outside the Kuala Lumpur court complex, March 10.
Supporters of former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin gather outside the Kuala Lumpur court complex, March 10.

Political analysts see Malay support hanging in the balance after the corruption charges brought by the government against Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin, especially in rural areas and among those who no longer support Umno.

James Chin of Australia's University of Tasmania said this was particularly the case among those who abandoned Umno after rejecting its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former leader Najib Razak.

However, he said the Malay community as a whole appeared to be taking a watch-and-wait approach to the ongoing court cases. 

"For the wider Malay community, I think the attitude is, they are listening carefully to what he says about political prosecution.

"But it's more of a wait-and-see attitude," he told MalaysiaNow. 

"I don't think they have made up their minds yet." 

Muhyiddin, who was prime minister for 17 months between 2020 and 2021, has been slapped with a total of seven charges related to the JanaWibawa initiative, a post-Covid-19 programme to help Bumiputera contractors.

Speaking to reporters after the first six charges on March 10, the Bersatu president described them as an "organised political persecution". 

Anwar however has denied claims of selective prosecution against his enemies.

Academic Shamsul Amri Baharuddin said the charges against Muhyiddin demonstrated the cooperation between Zahid and Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. 

"Anwar became the 10th prime minister because of Zahid's support," Shamsul, of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Institute of Ethnic Studies, told MalaysiaNow. 

"Anwar still owes Zahid. Rescuing him from the RoS situation was just one case. There are still 48 left."

Shamsul was referring to the recent move by Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail to exempt Umno from a clause in the Societies Act, allowing the party to forgo elections for its top two posts.

This followed the circulation of a letter dated March 2, purportedly from the RoS, stating that the additional motion, passed at Umno's 2022 general assembly in January, was irregular and in conflict with the party's constitution. 

"The people are smarter than the leaders of PKR and Barisan Nasional," Shamsul said. 

Chin however played down the odds of a government collapse, citing several issues including the approaching Raya celebrations which he said would make it difficult for any move by PN. 

"I think the general stand for everyone, whether the government or the opposition, is that there is no need to make any move for now because of the six state elections to come," he added. 

"Let us see who will have the support of the hardcore Malays."