Penang Institute says the victorious side will act swiftly to apply heavy measures to support its agenda.
GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Institute foresees large-scale political and institutional changes in Malaysia after the 14th general election (GE14), no matter which side wins.
Ooi Kee Beng, the executive director of the state-funded think tank, said a victorious Barisan Nasional (BN) would move quickly to try and quash the opposition. If Pakatan Harapan (PH) won, he added, it would initiate major reforms and launch investigations into past government scandals.
“BN may move to crush, through institutional, legal and other means, any substantive opposition left standing,” he told FMT, adding that there might be also be a crackdown on civil liberties and on individuals seen as recalcitrant.
He said a triumphant PH, meanwhile, would likely be as swift in carrying out the reforms it had promised. Investigations into scandals that have tainted the BN administration would be inevitable, he added.
Ooi said the notion of changing the government was something many Malaysians had become open to, owing to the “many bizarre and inconceivable things that have happened in recent years to damage Malaysia’s international reputation and self-image”.
“For a mortified and embarrassed public, a change of government at the federal level no longer carries the deep sense of incredulity and anguish that it once did,” he said.
He said the change of attitude could partly be attributed to the rise in the cost of living.
“In fact, people are in a very bad mood in Malaysia today, to such an extent that their feeling of being helpless, outraged and ignored may turn out to be a stronger impulse to act than the tried and tested issue of race and religion.”
Ooi also predicted that a BN victory would embolden PAS to push its Islamic agenda across the country, “unless its recent good ties with Umno cause its followers to desert it in significant numbers”.
He added that a PH defeat would “severely test” the ability of PPBM and Amanah to survive because of their newness to the political scene.
He noted that PPBM was already facing deregistration and said Amanah was lacking in visibility among the common folk.
The nomination of candidates for the election will take place on April 28. Polling day, meanwhile, is May 9.
According to the Election Commission, 14,940,624 people are registered to vote.