Ethnicity Influence the Voting Patterns Among Malaysian Citizens


The research question is important as it shapes the direction of the paper. Besides, it answers the critical concern that emanates from the need to understand the far that politics and economic factors are related. For this dissertation, the focus will be on urbanization as a factor of economic development. By analyzing the voting pattern in relation to urbanization and ethnicity, the dissertation can make a conclusion whether economic or ethnicity plays a key role in voting pattern. If economic factors determine the voting pattern, then, the paper will make an informed recommendation regarding the means of promoting voting in Malaysia.

As such, the paper will assume that urbanization promotes the development of modern interest groups that will then champion the creation of new political movement among the elite groups. In the same vein, the urbanization move is assumed to be a force responsible for the creation of different political front among the political communities that then result in the decentralization of political power.

Through this dimension of analysis, the dissertation remains important as it will also demonstrate that urbanization does not only reflect the growth of cities but also indicates the socio-economic transformation of the people. The paper will also use the research question as a means of exploring the economic policies in Malaysia. For this argument, if the policy is biased, then the voting pattern would be associated with changing the leadership pattern rather than focusing on the individual ethnicities. Besides, if the voting system will reflect ethnicity, then the paper will seek to understand the connection between race and economic levels.

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On the other hand, that will also shape the understanding of the role of education and race in voting among the Malaysian communities.

Background of the project

The dissertation will consist of various parts including the theoretical perspective that indicates the voting patterns in Malaysia. The focus of the paper will be to explore the various literature that depicts the nature of voting and the factors that determine the voting pattern. More significantly, the paper will also aim at analyzing the two factors including the effects of urbanization and ethnicity on the voting system of Malaysia. The study will then analyze data to come up with a discussion explaining the various changes that are notable in the voting patterns. In the discussion, the findings will be used to shape the understanding of the role of socio-economic in the voting system within Malaysia.

Literature Review

The article by Puyok (2006), demonstrates the voting pattern of the Lun Bawang community. The article focuses on the community as it represents the majority ethnic group within the Ba’ Kelalan constituency. The findings are from the Sarawak State Elections of May 20, 2006. The significance of the article is due to the extensive reporting that involved comparing the September 2004 by-election in Ba’ Kelalan with the one of 2006. In 2004, the Baru Bian, an independent candidate, got more than half of the votes of the Lun Bawang community. However, the seat was won by a Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate, Balang Rining. The popular vote was shared in almost equal proportions between Baru and Balang. In the end, Balang won with a small margin of two percent. Although Balang belonged to the Lun Bawang, he failed to influence his ethnic group to vote for him. It is thought that Baru, known for his handling of the NCR land cases, got the majority of the Lun Bawang vote due to the idealistic outlook and not the ethnic drive.

Baling was close to the BN leaders including Abdul Taib Mahmud and had the money to the campaign. On the other hand, Baru would rely on his money as well as those from donors. In the argument of the paper, the voting pattern in 2006, especially in urban areas, had taken an economic inclination. Some of the critical aspects included the sudden rise in the oil prices and the high land lease. Also, from Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s rule, people have been made to believe in the value of progress and modernity. Hence, a leader that seems archaic, old-fashioned, and backward may not have a chance of winning an election. The issue about development and urbanization was more appealing to the electorate than the issue of ethnicity. At Long Semadoh, Baru was chosen instead of Balang as the government had promised to build a Rural Growth Center there.

On the other hand, Pepinsky (2015) interprets the concept of ethnicity and urbanization in the 2013 Malaysian General Election. The author of the article seeks to identify the whether ethnicity or urbanization plays the most significant role in the erosion of the BN’s popular votes in the general election of 2013. Similar to the study by Puyok (2006), it was established that urbanization and developmental agenda influenced the voting pattern. In particular, the Chinese-Urbanization had significantly contributed to the change in dynamics regarding the voting pattern. To confirm the significance of race in the voting pattern, the author argues that whether the constituency is in the rural or urban regions, any rise in the number of Bumiputera voters in any of such constituency did not alter the support for the ruling coalition.

The article makes that argument with the intention of indicating the significance of the Bumiputera votes in the existence of BN regime. For a long time, since independence, the BN regime has relied on the Malay voters in Peninsular Malaysia. However, over time, things have changed and the urbanized Malays are no longer so close and aligned with the UMNO (United Malays National Organization) and the BN as they used to be. It is in this argument that the author indicates that one of the social changes could have replaced the role of district-level ethnic composition that used to determine the votes that BN could get in a general election.

Evidently, the voting pattern and the customary logic of the Malaysian people had changed significantly, perhaps due to modernization or otherwise urbanization. According to Kessler (2013) referenced in Pepinsky (2015), “UMNO/BN saw, as some who were not part of its campaign also understood, that the key to the election was the Malay votes. It was conducted in Malay terms and directed to a Malay audience. It was a campaign conducted for the votes of Malays, mainly for those of the great bulk of the more “traditionally-minded” Malays, in the Malay rural heartland areas.” It became clear that the Malay constituencies that UMNO and the BN needed to win were the rural constituencies.

The study by Jin (2010) uses the 2008 Federal Elections in Sarawak to make an argument about the voting pattern that exists in Malaysia. There were several factors that determined the voting pattern including the hopes and fears of the minority groups that are categorized as the other Bumiputera. The article is significant as it identifies the key issues that are pertinent to the Malaysian general election including the role of ethnicity in the Chinese and Malay constituencies. The emphasis of ethnicity in shaping the voting pattern among the Malaysian people has also been an emphasis by Balasubramaniam (2006). In the argument presented by Balasubramaniam (2006), voting in Malaysia is inclined toward strengthening the ethnic identity. As such, the increasing concern with the Malaysian voting is associated with the role of tactical voting that has existed for years in the multi-racial Malaysia.

In another argument presented by Moten (2006) using the Pengkalan Pasir by-election in Kelantan in December 2005, utilizes the contest between the national ruling coalition (BN) and the opposition (PAS). The article first points out the voting population as the Malay Muslim Kelantan. For several years, the same region had been dominated by the opposition party. However, in the by-election, the ruling coalition won. Different from other arguments, the article focuses on various concepts that could have resulted in the different results from the opposition stronghold.

Some of the concepts that the article has highlighted include the nature of the party system, the strategic significance of the constituency, the national and state level political systems, and the voting patterns in the preceding elections. The ruling party had a small margin of the seats in the parliament and would be at a risk of a vote of no confidence. Therefore, it was important to understand the factors that would have led to the win by the ruling party despite that being an opposition base. The two parties fighting for the seat (BN and PAS) used economic grounds as the main focus during their campaigns. Other than ethnicity being reflected in the election, it was clear that religious piety played a major role in the constituency.


The model employed in the dissertation takes the cause-effect approach that recognizes the voting patterns in Malaysia. The factors to be explored will shape the manner that the paper will discuss the findings in the next section of the paper. The model of the paper will closely relate to the econometric model, particularly the fractional response model.

Factors that determine voting in Malaysia

According to Jian, Ng, Rangel, Vaithilingam, and Pillay (2015), voting in Malaysia is determined by the ethnicity and urbanization. In essence, these two factors determine the number of votes that a ruling party secures in a general election.

The independent variables for the data to be analyzed will be the ethnic population’s totals, the distribution and area of the populations, and the interaction between the ethnic groups and the area. The specification of the model will be on the close interaction between the populations and the area.

Some of the considerations to make when making the analysis should revolve around understanding how the patterns of rural-urban migration have changed the voting pattern among the populations. F significance is to understand the role of the Malay population in the urban areas. It has been observed that urban-Malay populations retain their rural-voting habits. In such case, the argument emphasizes the role of ethnicity in the voting pattern. Secondly, the role of the Chinese population in the urban and rural areas need to be examined.

How voting and campaign is done in Malaysia

The variables that are used in the study are also shaped by the manner that the campaigns are done in Malaysia. For instance, Noh (2014) indicates that the election system in Malaysia has more questions than answers. The argument is made in the realization that the ruling party has been in existence for the last sixty-one years. The increasing civil campaigns could in the future shift the voting patterns in Malaysia. In essence, people could also vote based on the extensive campaign strategy that places more emphasis on revolution or change. The analysis could thus be viewed from the angle where voting is a factor of change (Moten, 2011; Weiss, 2016). In this case, the ethnicity and urbanization factors could have little to do with the election outcomes.

Therefore, considering the variables to be investigated in the study, a comprehensive model is formed to guide in the analysis. R statistical software was used in doing the data analysis for the data obtained. In this case, the model used is: y= a + b1x1 + b2x2 + b3x3 + b4x4 + error. The dependent variable is BNvotes while the votes obtained per the ethnic groups Malay, Chinese, Bumi Sabah, and Indian is the independent variables. Hence, BN votes= a + b1Malay + b2 Chinese + b3Indian + b4 Bumi Sabah + e. In this case, multiple regression was done by regressing the dependent variable against the independent variable.

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Ethnicity Influence the Voting Patterns Among Malaysian Citizens. (2022, May 11). Retrieved from

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