Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s strong support of Hamas and the Palestinian cause in the ongoing conflict is aimed at winning back the Malay votes, said analysts.
However, they said that he could have miscalculated the sentiments from Sabah and Sarawak where the majority are largely non-Muslims.
“He is just playing politics,” Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi and Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Jayum Jawan told The Malaysian Insight.
Awang said by being in solidarity with the Palestinians, Anwar is trying to portray himself as being pro-Islam and not the liberal that PAS claimed him to be.
It’s an opinion shared by Jayum.
Jayum said Anwar’s political objective is simple.
“He (Anwar) needs the support of peninsular Malays to survive. Not from Sabah and Sarawak,” Jayum added, alluding to the volume of criticisms heaped on Palestine solidarity week in schools that had emanated from the two Borneo territories.
“He knows his government can crumble without Malay support. He’s (merely) playing to the Malay gallery.”
Despite this political play, Jayum said he does not believe Anwar is drawing Malay support as he had hoped for.
“He is running out of time and his multitude of advisors are failing him,” he said.
Awang said since the plight of the Palestinians is a universal issue, it’s expected for Anwar, “a high-profile international Muslim leader”, to support other Muslims but with one eye on the domestic front.
The only problem with this move, Awang said, is that Anwar and his advisors did not think deeply enough.
“They didn’t think of Sabah and Sarawak’s reaction where the majority of the people are non-Muslims.”
He said people, particularly in Sarawak, are sceptical of the unity government’s claim that the support for the Palestinians is based primarily on humanitarian grounds as Malaysia’s support had always been religiously biased.
“Not all Palestinians are Muslims. Many are Christians.
“Still, the support had caused some non-Muslims in Borneo to view this support as politically driven and religious in nature.”
Perikatan Nasional, with PAS and Bersatu in the lead, saw almost 60% of Malay support in the last general election in November with Umno getting about 29% and Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan with about 11%.
The trend increased in the August six-state elections where PN managed to make a clean sweep in the northern Malay states and get a huge majority in Kedah.
Anwar’s federal government was formed with the support of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional and the ruling pacts of Sabah and Sarawak. – TMI