A political analyst has warned of a possible drop in support for PKR and DAP if Putrajaya decides to extend Lynas Corp’s licence to operate its rare earths processing plant in Pahang.
Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia told FMT that both Pakatan Harapan (PH) component parties had been vocal on the issue since before the 14th general election last year.
“In fact, the Bentong and Kuantan MPs are synonymous with this issue and might have been elected based on this as well,” he said, referring to DAP’s Wong Tack and PKR’s Fuziah Salleh.
He said although DAP occupies the most seats in Parliament and its ministers hold critical Cabinet posts, the party appears to lack real decision-making power.
“It will therefore receive the brunt in terms of reduced votes nationwide,” he said.
However, Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said while PH supporters would be disappointed if Lynas’ licence is renewed, it was too early to say if the coalition’s voter based would be affected.
“At most, they might not come out to vote,” he told FMT, adding that they are unlikely to vote for Barisan Nasional instead.
The Lynas plant in Gebeng, Pahang, has been the source of a dispute over the removal of low-level radioactive waste.
A decision on whether the government will renew its operating licence is expected by Aug 15, ahead of the deadline on Sept 2.
On Monday, Reuters quoted two sources who said the government plans to extend Lynas’ licence although it could be for a shorter duration than the usual three years.
While on a visit to Japan last month, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said the government would allow Lynas to continue operations as Malaysia did not want to lose such a large investment. He also spoke of the world demand for rare earths.
Azmi said it would come as no surprise if the government decides to renew the licence, given global geopolitical factors such as the US-China trade war.
He also said it is unlikely that PPBM will come under criticism even though Mahathir is the party chairman.
“In this issue, I don’t see PPBM being on the negative side even though it is part of the government,” he said.