By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela
Bangkok, Mar 12 (efe-epa).- Monday’s appointment of a new Malaysian government dominated by the country’s nationalists represents a checkmate against the previous Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition, which in 2018 achieved the first power transition in six decades with a multicultural agenda.
The new cabinet includes Islamist politicians hostile toward minorities of Indian and Chinese origin along with members of the Barisan Nasional (National Front), the veteran coalition linked to various scandals and corruption cases, and deputies from the previous executive.
Muhyiddin Yassin, the new prime minister, announced Monday the creation of a national unity ministry to ensure the harmony of the country’s various ethnic and religious groups.
However, various analysts consider the new coalition, the National Alliance, is perhaps the most Pro-Malay since the country’s 1957 independence.
The country, home to 32 million inhabitants, comprises 69 percent of Malay-Muslims and indigenous people, 22 percent of Chinese Malays and 6.9 percent of Indian Malays, according to official data.
For the first time since the creation of modern Malaysia, the executive has members of the Malaysian Islamic Party, which advocates the implementation of Islamic law and has denounced the loss of Malay influence in the past two years.
Furthermore, since the fall of the previous executive, the attorney-general, the federal court president and the finance minister – all members of ethnic minorities since 2018 – have been replaced by Malays.
On May 9, 2018, Malaysia experienced a historic moment after the Pakatan Harapan coalition led by nonagenarian Mahathir Mohamad defeated the Barisan Nasional, led by then-prime minister Najib Razak, implicated in a mega-case of corruption.
Mahathir, who became the world’s longest-serving head of government, allied with long-time rival Anwar Ibrahim, to whom he agreed to hand over the premiership after two years.
However, the president – who already ruled Malaysia between 1981 and 2003 – had postponed the decision and Mahathir’s party partner Muhyiddin maneuvered to seize power last month after causing dissensions in the coalition.
Nadzri Mohamed Noor, political science professor at the National University of Malaysia, told EFE that “Malay nationalists” in the Pakatan Harapan were having problems with parties within the coalition more oriented toward minorities of Chinese and Indian origin.
“Actually the split (of the coalition led by Mahathir and Anwar), in a way, seems inevitable,” Nadzri said.
Shortly after independence, Malaysia embarked passed policies – such as quotas in the administration and universities – empowering the Malay majority and indigenous people to compensate for its lower purchasing power compared to the prosperous Chinese minority.
In addition to fighting corruption, the Mahathir-Anwar coalition pledged to increase opportunities for non-Malay minorities, who have felt discriminated against for decades.
The National Alliance’s inception is seen as a return to Malay hegemony.
“What we have today is a coalition with the lowest representation for the major minorities in Malaysian history,” Malaysian political scientist and director of the Penang Institute Ooi Kee Beng told EFE.
Mahathir, 94, says Najib was behind the fall of his government and, despite accusing Muhyiddin of treason, told local press he believes the new government has sufficient parliamentary support to last until the 2023 elections.
Caught in several embezzlement cases related to state investment fund 1MDB, Najib Razak has said he expects a “fairer” trial with the new coalition in power after defending his innocence and denouncing that accusations against him are politically motivated. EFE-EPA