The Chinese and Umno

By Mohsin Abdullah

There was a survey whose findings were reported widely by the media recently.

It left a number of people baffled, prompting many not only to question the survey but disputing the findings as well.

I am referring to a survey conducted in August by think tank Emir Research.

It was reported that among other things, the survey "showed" the Chinese community support Umno even more than they support DAP.

With such a finding, it is no surprise that Chinese and non-Chinese (including Malays) have reacted with, well, surprise.

After all, it is believed that most Chinese support DAP. Put it the other way round, there is no lost love between the the Chinese and Umno. Generally speaking, that is.

But Emir Research came up with a clarification. News portal FMT reported that Emir Research said via a statement that its survey findings "indicate that the Chinese community support for Umno is as high as its support for DAP, and not higher than as previously reported".

Hence, according to Emir Research, it was not correct to conclude from its survey that support for Umno was higher than DAP among the Chinese.

The think tank was responding to reports that said its survey of over 2,000 respondents put support for Umno among the Chinese community at 25% compared to 17% for DAP.

Emir Research went on to explain that given the margin of error, it was inaccurate to conclude that Umno enjoyed more Chinese support than DAP and "only when we observe a percentage difference of at least 10% we can conclude that such a large difference cannot be by chance."

Therefore, according to Emir Research, "the more scientifically accurate way to interpret the observed results is that support for Umno is as high as that for DAP among the Chinese respondents".

In a nutshell, what Emir Research was saying is, Chinese support for Umno and DAP is "equal". Am I right to conclude this way?

Anyway, the Emir Research "explanation" has not been "well accepted" by many. I say this not based on any detailed study or survey but on casual conversations with my circle of friends, especially my Chinese friends.

All brushed off the findings no matter what the clarification. A good number laughed it off and some reminded me that Emir Research is linked to Bersatu and is run by Datuk Rais Hussin "who is a Bersatu supreme council member and was appointed chairman of the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation by the prime minister who is also Bersatu president".

Thus, they bluntly opined that the survey "is biased".

While Rais' appointment as MDEC chairman is true, I corrected my friends that he is no more Bersatu supreme council member. He remains in the party as an ordinary member, though.

Anyway, I am not about to agree with the findings of the survey. Neither will I dispute it.

Political surveys and researches, as I understand, are based on a clear methodology with specific procedures used to identify, select, process and analyze information.

Projections and predictions are made based on information obtained from focus groups and their response to a questionnaire.

In short, the basis for their findings is always samples of target groups.

As far as the Emir Research survey is concerned, I am not privy to what methodology was used. Nor do I know who the target groups were. There were some 2,000 respondents. That we know.

And as pointed out by readers giving their views in the comments section of a news portal, they suspect the respondents could be pro-MCA folks, if not party members themselves. Well, your guess is as good as mine!

Going by the clarification made by Emir Research, their findings showed the Chinese support for Umno is as high as their support for DAP. This I suppose was what the 2,000 survey respondents told the good people of Emir Research conducting the survey.

Putting aside the survey participants (presumably Chinese), the big question to ask is do Chinese in general love Umno more than DAP? Or love both all the same? Equally?

To state the obvious, only the Chinese can answer that. I can't as I am not Chinese. However, I can list out briefly what the Chinese see in Umno. At least what I think they have seen and are seeing now.

Actions and gestures of certain Umno leaders have hurt the feelings of the Chinese, in particular with regards to their fond reference to "pendatang". 

The same leaders said openly support of the Chinese (and non-Malays for that matter) was not needed for the party to win elections. But that was the Umno before the GE14 defeat.

Present day Umno – there are still among their midst whose views of Chinese schools are well known. No elaboration needed.

Umno is in Muafakat Nasional with PAS to unify the "ummah". Needless to say, it's an alliance which gives top priority to Malays/Muslims.

"Ummah" is Arabic for "community". But the word has become synonymous with the Islamic community. In Malaysia, it has always been referred to as the Malay/Muslim community.

Umno is not in Perikatan Nasional but many of its leaders are in the PN government (with PAS) which is seen as a Malay-Muslim administration.

Not that this is not a good thing, but many actions taken thus far have made many a Chinese sit up and take stock of what's in store and what they "fear" is to come. Again I won't go into the specifics..

Top leaders in Umno now seem to be not in the same page with regards to the role and status of Muafakat Nasional and Perikatan Nasional.

Some young leaders are now pushing for what is labeled a "progressive caucus" within Umno "to bring a new narrative that is more friendly towards the people".

By "people", I take it to mean all Malaysians regardless of race and religion.

But a top Umno leader is suggesting the formation of a grand coalition. He named Malay and bumiputra parties to be in this grand coalition.

To be fair to the leader, he did say non-Malay non-Muslim political parties could be included "as long as they are are opposed to Pakatan Harapan".

Never mind the politics. Ponder what the proposal would bring to the community and to the country.

The list can get longer but enough said for now. Nevertheless, the things listed should be enough to answer (even for a little bit) whether the Chinese support Umno, the DAP or any other party for that matter.

I'll end with this quote from an Umno Youth leader taken from an article by MalaysiaKini columnist S. Thayaparan: "At the moment, Umno is perceived to be so conservative, an Islamist party, a party that propagates propaganda. This is what is clouding the party now. but Umno is not like that."

It's up to you my Chinese friends to take that statement in total, partially or with a pinch of salt. 

(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)

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