In the forthcoming 13th GE, political parties need to focus on the middle ground. The middle ground has enlarged partly due to poor publicity and internal issues faced by the opposition.
Apart from the Dap, both Pas and PKR are facing an unsettled electoral base. Erosion of support among the Malay and Indian voters is the biggest challenge facing the opposition.
For Pakatan, it is not good if only Dap is doing its part in winning the majority of Chinese voters. It is difficult to tell when Pas' patience may run thin if the party loses more Malay majority seats or loses Kelantan in the next GE.
Pakatan needs to address the Malay dilemma very quickly. The newly minted coalition has argued against the failure of NEP but it has not been able to do more by introducing an alternative policy to address the multifarious socio-economic issues faced by the community.
In the end, the return of Malay voters to the ruling coalition may be contributed by a lack of alternative policy or a new hope for the community rather than Umno's supremacy chant. The community would rather find comfort within a familiar environment than to venture out into the unknown.
Politicians must take note that 'ketuanan Melayu' to them is interpreted differently from the common people. Politicians want to preserve political power for themselves. Most of the Malay voters fear a worse backlash on their socio-economic situation and livelihood if their rights are no longer protected by the government. Not many Malays seriously believe that they are a far superior race compared to others.
They needed 'ketuanan Melayu' to protect their own well-being. Until and unless there is a programme to empower and to build the capacity of the community, Malaysia race based political model would continue to be effective and relevant. Dominant race based parties will continue to dominate.
Anwar Ibrahim may be an inspirational leader to Pakatan members but his on-going sodomy trial and unending sexual allegations may have taken their toll on his party and the coalition. Most of the leaders in PKR are Anwar's cheer leaders. None of them are ready to step up and step out of Anwar's shadow.
The party depends too much on Anwar to persuade the Malay voters to support the party. Unfortunately, the de facto leader is not in the right position to help his party to galvanize the middle ground.
On the other hand, the Umno led Barisan Nasional is making too many conflicting moves which may not help the coalition to make any significant gains from the middle ground too.
The return of some Malay and Indian support should not be misconstrued as a return of popular support for the coalition.
The lost of Malay and Indian support in the last GE was somewhat contributed by Mahathir's relentless attacks on Abdullah Badawi which had led to an internal strife within Umno and partly Indians unhappiness with Samy Vellu.
With both Abdullah and Samy out of the way, the coalition should claw back at least 5-15% support from both communities. The gains made are actually from Barisan own core supporters which had chosen to vote against them in the last GE.
PM Najib has tried to win over the middle ground through his NEM and 1Malaysia initiatives. However, several conflicting moves e.g. 1Melayu 1Bumi, Perkasa, Pembela, Muslim NGOs, sex video, abuse of power, corruption, overstaying leaders etc. made by his allies are going to dent his hope of winning over the middle ground.
Next GE is going to be a very polarized one for Malaysia. There are two sides of Malaysian politics: urban & rural politics.
Urban politics is largely dominated by a large middle ground. These voters expect less politicking and are less tolerant of bad governance and arrogant politicians. Most of them are expected to still vote against the Barisan if the coalition does not change its political strategy drastically to represent a more responsible and moderate face.
Rural areas are probably going to vote for status quo. They are still somewhat insulated from the issues and challenges by urban folks including inflation, high cost of living and others.
However, a government is run from the city. Policies are being formulated in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
The world, when measuring Malaysia's development and affluence, would be looking at Kuala Lumpur and not Lenggong or Kudat.
So far, no one is winning the battle for the middle ground yet.