Pusat KOMAS is disappointed with the recurring use of race and religion by politicians and political parties in their electoral campaigns. Based on the recent statement released by Architects of Diversity (AOD), at least 17 uses of the race and religion card were detected in the 15th Melaka state election campaign. Yet again, candidates and parties from all three coalitions, Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan, were found to leverage on the use of race and religion in their electoral campaigns.
It is ironic to see that these politicians and political parties claim to be champions of an all-inclusive Malaysia on one hand, but on the other hand continue to use race and religion as a tool to appeal to their electorates. Race and religion are often used as a tool by politicians to maintain their power to control their constituencies and voters. Such actions may bring serious consequences to interethnic relations by creating negative stereotypes and prejudices among people from different ethnic groups. The effects of racial and religious politics continue to linger and tear the fabric of society apart, even after the ballots are cast.
According to preliminary findings from Pusat KOMAS’ social media monitoring project which utilises advanced technological social media analytic tools, several conversational themes related to race and religion continue to manifest themselves in public online discourses. The themes identified include: (1) the use of religion in politics; (2) racial slurs and incitement; (3) affirmative action; (4) racism in education; (5) racializing criminal incidents; and (6) counter-racism and efforts to promote national unity.
From the data shown above, the sentiments found on social media are predominantly negative. Mentions that counter-racism and efforts to promote national unity were highly outnumbered. In this sense, our preliminary findings suggest that the overall sentiment on social media in relation to race and religion was highly negative. Even though the sentiments captured may not be an accurate representation of the people’s worldview on the ground, it may act as an indication of interethnic tension in the nation.
We urge all election candidates and political parties to refrain from the use of race and religion throughout the remaining campaign period and focus on more pressing issues, such as good governance, economy and education. Do not exploit race relations for short-term political gains at the expense of the social fabric that binds us all together. We hope that voters in Melaka will rise up to reject politicians and political parties who use race and religion as their political tool, and instead choose based on the candidate’s merit, service and policy ideas. We in Pusat KOMAS will continue to monitor social media platforms for signs and trends of racial and religious politics until the final hours of the campaigning period. A full report will be published after the state elections have concluded.
19 November 2021