Malaysian socialists in election pact with youth-based party

July 20, 2023
MUDA-PSM launch
Launching the MUDA-PSM election pact in Kuala Lumpur on July 15. Photo: PSM

The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) and the Malaysian United Democracy Alliance (MUDA) have agreed on an electoral pact for the upcoming state assembly elections on August 12.

This pact, announced on July 15, commits the two parties not to stand candidates against each other and to campaign on five key shared concerns.

The first is a rejection of race-based politics, which has become a dominant and toxic feature of politics in Malaysia since the 1970s, when the left-wing opposition Socialist Front was repressed and its leaders jailed without trial under the notorious Internal Security Act.

Former Prime Minister Mohamed Mahathir rose to power in that decade by weaponising and manipulating hatred between people of Malay and non-Malay ancestry. In this election, religion is increasingly being used to stoke inter-communal fear, suspicion and hostility. An electoral gain by the Party of Islam (PAS) in the last federal election is being used to frighten people about an impending “green wave” that might bring in more Islamic fundamentalist state governments.

PSM chairperson and former MP Jeyakumar Devaraj told Green Left that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) — which governs nationally under PM Anwar Ibrahim — “is going to town on the ‘green wave’" in the lead up to the state elections”.

“It claims that PAS will severely curtail the freedom of non-Malays if it comes to power [in more than the four states it holds] and that "there will be a ‘Talibanisation of Malaysia’," said Deveraj.

On the other hand, explained Devaraj, the conservative Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance is painting the biggest component party of PH — the Democratic Action Party (DAP) — as the bogey man, and claiming that Malay rights and Islam will be sidelined if PH is elected.

“Both sides paint it as a life and death struggle and therefore it is crucial to vote them in.”

This has created an extremely fearful political climate in this election campaign, Devaraj warned. This situation has prompted the PSM and MUDA to unite in a call for a “new politics” that is not based on playing on people’s fears and anxieties and driving communities further apart.

“MUDA and PSM represent Malaysians who are multi-racial, ethnic and religious. We believe the rhetoric of mainstream politics, centred around race and ethnicity, is archaic and must be replaced with need-based policies,” the MUDA-PSM pact says.

“MUDA and PSM are cognisant that the division among people along the lines of race and religion has grown. To challenge the growing division, MUDA and PSM will cooperate and become the common platform to unify the people for the common good.

“MUDA and PSM are cognizant that the strategy to divide the people is done for the benefit and interest of the political and business elite.”

Second, the two parties have committed to “uplift the lives of the majority and marginalised people”.

“Many of the policies formulated at the national or state level tend to prioritize the development of those privileged rather than the marginalised who need support,” the MUDA-PSM pact says.

“MUDA and PSM intend to empower the people, especially the majority and the marginalised, at each state and ensure state policies are designed to empower the people to make ends meet and enhance social mobility.”

Third, the parties call for “genuine democracy”.

“MUDA and PSM believe that the government must be guided by the voice of the people, and state legislators and people’s representatives must ensure that the public must be able to share their views directly,” the pact says.

Local government elections were abolished in Malaysia in the 1960s, as part of the campaign to suppress the left.

“MUDA and PSM believe that the right of the people to elect their local representatives and other government positions must be returned to the peoples' mandate. Without elected representatives, the people’s aspirations can never be achieved.”

Fourth, the pact calls for “balanced and inclusive development”.

“MUDA and PSM believe that each state in Malaysia bears the responsibility to limit the negative economic impact suffered by marginalised communities with necessary developmental support.

“MUDA and PSM intend to champion issues such as improvement to public transportation, maintenance of public facilities, access to clean water and improving the standard of living in every state.”

Fifth, the MUDA-PSM pact calls for urgent environmental action.

“State governments now focus more on economic development without consideration for the environmental impact. Pollution resulting from unrestrained and excessive development has contributed to and amplified natural disasters caused by climate change. These disasters have caused significant damage and losses for the people and the nation.

“MUDA and PSM intend to prioritise policies that would ensure sustainability and foster the development and growth of green cities.”

MUDA and PSM were still announcing their candidates as at the time of writing.

MUDA’s founder, Syed Saddiq, is a federal MP. He was once a member of the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (BERSATU), which was formed by Mahathir. Saddiq broke away and formed his own party in 2020. "Muda" means “young” in Bahasa Malaysia and the party projects itself as the party of a new generation, fed up with the “old politics”.

MUDA also holds one state assembly position in Johor. The PSM does not currently hold any federal or state seats.

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