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“Identity politics is not reducible to materialism” – Ramasamy

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COMMENT BY PROF DR P.RAMASAMY, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER II, PENANG

Identity politics is not reducible to materialism

After the last general election in November 2022, it was thought that PN had reached its political pinnacle. It was just matter of time before the coalition becomes a weakened force.

The corruption charges against some PN leaders were expected to stop the PN on its tracks. But yet whether the green wave was there or not, PN made huge inroads in five of the states in the recent state elections, obliterating the chances for the recovery of the Malay-based political parties aligned with PH-BN broad coalition.

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Umno, PKR and Amanah lost badly in the five state elections. Whether these parties can make a comeback in the future, remains to be seen.

PH-BN and PN might have taken three states each. However, the gross victory overshadows the powerful net inroads that PN had made in five of the states.

The DAP might be the fixed deposit of the PH-BN coalition, but other than the maintenance of the status-quo, the party supposedly the bastion of non-Malay support made no electoral advances in the recent state elections.

Umno was wiped out in Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and PN making inroads in Selangor and to a limited extent in Penang.
Negeri Sembilan was the only state that provided some dignity to Umno.

Perhaps the party might be provided the post of the Menteri Besar to arrest his sagging fortunes. I wonder whether Umno can be politically revived after this near decimation. Corruption charges against certain leaders hangs around their necks like the Sword of Damocles.

In the absence of non-Malay support in Penang, Selangor and Negri Sembilan, it would have been a sad story for Umno. What a paradox; once non-Malay candidates in the BM depended on the support of Umno, today the reverse is true.

Having observed the electoral performance of the PN, there is naivety prevailing among analysts saying that PN had reached its political limits. Nothing can be further from the truth. This wishful thinking seems to emanate from those who cannot stomach the PN’s electoral success.

It is further argued that a combination of inclusive politics, sound material growth and others might be able to check the juggernaut of PN.

I wonder material development alone can be the answer to weaken the ethnic and religious forces of PN. The realm of ideology is too powerful to be reduced to the material dimension.
Let us not make silly theoretical mistakes of reducing identity politics to material growth in the form of increased foreign investments and job creations.

Such wishful thinking seems to emerge from those who are unable to understand the how the Malay-based political parties are ruthlessly fighting for the hearts and minds of the Malays, both urban and rural.

The extreme politicisation of race and religion has immensely benefited the PN. Again egregious errors cannot be repeated saying that the state elections was the final episode of hyper politics of PN.

It is obvious that hyper politics has not ended, in fact it might extended to the next general elections. Normative prescription are not the way to stop the juggernaut of PN.

Both objectives and subjective conditions are there to fuel the rise of the green wave. How PH-BN are going to thwart the green wave remains to be seen.

Moving to the right, a logical move, is just not enough to stem the tide of the green wave. Deep analysis is called for to overcome the green wave, without the the move to the right.

Such a move might alienate the non-Malay base to the extent unintended consequences might result. Maybe, the unity government is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
How the unity government is going to wiggle out of this tricky political situation remains to be seen.

It is wrong to say that we have seen the last surge of PN. The green wave has not subsided, it is there to rear its ugly head under propitious circumstances.

It would be a formidable challenge for the unity government under the weight of identity politics to move forward.