Populism, Patronage and Progress: A Political-Economic Analysis of Malaysia’s 15th General Elections

May 2023

Jeremy Lim, Imran Mohd Rasid, Anas Nor'azim

The dominance of Malay-Muslim discourse in the public and political sphere is set to continue into the future, if not, deepening further. The ‘Islamisation arms race’ that has preoccupied past administrations seems set to continue as BERSATU and PAS challenge PKR and UMNO on their Islamic credentials to govern. At the moment, there is no political will to undo the decades of Islamisation of state institutions that incubated the very religious forces that led to the ‘Green Wave’. The current administration will certainly struggle to control the narrative around race and religion as opposition parties and social groups leverage popular discontent to influence policy decisions. Progressives would have to be creative in maneuvering such topics while simultaneously presenting a credible alternative to both communal politics and the tepid multiculturalism of PH and BN.

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