The act underlines a weighty challenge confronting his multi-ethnic, reformist coalition: race. When riots erupted at a Hindu temple outside the capital, Kuala Lumpur, last week, 93-year-old Mahathir Mohamad spared no effort to scotch speculation that tensions with Malays were to blame. Just a few days earlier, his government reversed its pledge to ratify a U.N. convention against racial discrimination following a backlash from groups who argued that it would dilute privileges Malays have enjoyed for decades. The two incidents illustrate the predicament confronting Mahathir as euphoria over the May election fades: curbing racial divisions, carrying out reform and reassuring Malays that affirmative-action policies favouring them in business, education and housing are not about to disappear. And Mahathir’s unlikely alliance – known as Pakatan Harapan, or Pact of Hope – has to do that without upsetting the delicate balance of its constituent parties. “The problem with Pakatan Harapan as a multiracial coalition is that it is not seen as championing the Malays,” said a deputy minister, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue. He said opposition parties are successfully fanning a perception that Malays, about 60 percent of the country’s 32 million people, are… Read full this story
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