Split Malay vote means minorities could play crucial role in Malaysia GE15 outcome: Experts

Split Malay vote means minorities could play crucial role in Malaysia GE15 outcome: Experts

KUALA LUMPUR: While the Bumiputeras make up the majority of Malaysia’s population, observers believe that the votes of the minorities can make a huge difference in the outcome of the 15th General Election (GE15).

According to the latest census by Malaysia’s Department of Statistics, the ethnic Chinese and Indian population in 2021 stood at 22.8 per cent and 6.6 per cent respectively while 69.9 per cent of the population is Bumiputera.

Merdeka Center executive director Ibrahim Suffian said that the minority votes would be very important this time round since the Malay vote is split between Barisan Nasional (BN), Perikatan Nasional (PN), Pakatan Harapan (PH) and smaller parties such as Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang).

“It is quite clear that the minority voters (who are) Chinese and Indian are generally more in favour of PH.

“Even if they don’t capture a lot of Malay votes, the support from the non-Malay community is enough to give PH a win in a lot of seats. If they don’t support PH, then the coalition’s chances are quite weak,” he told CNA.

A survey by the centre that was released on Nov 4 found that 32 per cent of Malay voters preferred BN compared to 20 per cent for PN and 13 per cent for PH, while 30 per cent were still unsure or had no preference.

The survey also found that 47 per cent of Chinese voters preferred PH compared to 5 per cent for BN and 1 per cent for PN. As for Indian voters, 51 per cent backed PH compared to 32 per cent for BN and 1 per cent for PN.

It also found that 41 per cent of Chinese and 8 per cent of Indians said they did not have any preference or were still unsure.

More than 21 million people are eligible to cast their votes during the elections on Nov 19. 

Mr Ibrahim said that the non-Malay vote may well become the decider in many of the seats where no single party can win based on Malay support alone.

There are altogether 222 parliamentary seats in Malaysia.

“They become very important in mixed ethnic constituencies where the non-Malay component is anywhere between 25 to 35 per cent.

“In seats where there are more minorities, PH and DAP will do quite well, that is quite expected. But in some seats where the Malay majority isn’t so big, anywhere between 65 to 75 per cent, the minority votes can become kingmaker,” he said, noting that there were about 25 such federal seats in the country. 

He said that while race is not the only factor when it comes to voting in Malaysia, it is still important in determining voting choices.

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed told CNA previously that most voters look at racial lines when it comes to voting.

“You have to respond to the attitude of the people. We can’t just say this is not right and put something the people do not want,” he said.


Representatives of several political parties interviewed by CNA said that they will fight for all Malaysians. However, they noted that there was no running away from the question of race.   

Gerakan president Dominic Lau claimed that when selecting candidates, race and religion are secondary.

“We put up candidates who can win the seats for PN. The focus is on winnability, acceptability, and capability,” he told CNA, although he acknowledged that the different parties in PN focused on different segments of the population.

PN component parties Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia are Bumiputera-based and Islamist parties respectively.

“We respect all and don’t care if they are the majority or the minority, as long as they are Malaysians, we will fight for all their votes,” Mr Lau said when asked about the importance of the minority votes in the coming election. 

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