With the 15th General election on the horizon, thousands of the Malaysian diaspora globally have rushed to fulfil their responsibilities as postal voters. In a few days, 21 million Malaysians are expected to follow suit in what is projected to be a close battle. Malaysia has gone through a tumultuous few years since GE-14 with the fall of Pakatan Harapan through the Sheraton Move amidst a global pandemic. GE-15 represents a second chance for Pakatan to replicate its previous victory. A win for either Barisan or Perikatan Nasional generally implies a continuation of the same leadership we have experienced. This article highlights a few key fights for parliamentary seats that may turn the tides of the political war.
Sungai Buloh – A new challenger
Sungai Buloh has long been a Pakatan Harapan stronghold with Datuk R Ramanan as its candidate. The main competitor for this seat is Barisan Nasional’s Khairy Jamaluddin (KJ) who has been making the rounds on social media. The caretaker health minister previously held the Rembau MP seat but had to make way for UMNO’s deputy president, Muhammad Hasan. The odds are stacked against him in Sungai Buloh as it remains to be seen whether his ‘celebrity’ status will translate into a win among the hearts of Sungai Buloh residents.
Datuk R Ramanan believes otherwise, stating that this is not a “popularity contest” and that his pragmatic strategies will secure enough votes for the victory. The solutions include a subsidy program to help B40 with groceries, a women-specific business training program and a super sports centre. KJ on the other hand takes a health care slant focusing on upgrading Sungai Buloh’s hospital, implementing first aid awareness programs and increased health-screenings.
KJ’s support for Umno vice president Ismail Sabri as prime minister and the intra-party conflict is another variable worth considering. Umno president Zahid Hamidi and KJ have had vocal disagreements. In response to Khairy’s coerced switch from Rembau to Sungai Buloh, Zahid stated that KJ should be thankful he was even given an opportunity to contest. Many have speculated However, Ismail Sabri’s support of KJ’s ambitions on becoming prime minister in the future implies that a vote for KJ is a vote for Ismail Sabri.
Bagan Datuk – David and Goliath
A fishing town on the coast of Perak, Bagan Datuk has been controlled by UMNO president Zahid Hamidi since 1995. Malay Mail reporters visited fishing villages in the area and found unanimous discontent among the locals towards the current political leaders. They mentioned empty promises, neglected worries of erosion and low standards of living. Pak Mokhtar, a retired civil servant mentioned that although he is grateful for what politicians have done, the town still lacks basic infrastructure and amenities.
Pakatan Harapan sees this as an opening to contest the seat. Datuk Shamsul Iskandar, the so-called giant-slayer faces quite the foe. However, the party seems optimistic as their recent political rally received an overwhelmingly positive reception with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in attendance. The Pakatan Harapan chairman extolled the many good qualities of their candidate. Datuk Shamsul believes that the apparent neglect of Bagan Datuk allows him to appeal to its residents with pledges to finally establish a municipal council of its own, years after achieving district status. The surge in new voters courtesy of Undi18 bodes well for them as the 15,000 new voices may swing the fight in their favour.
Kota Bharu – A predetermined outcome?
The state of Kelantan is synonymous with Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) a part of Perikatan Nasional. This time around, they face stiff competition from BN. Socio-political analyst Azman Pawi stated that “Both parties have a chance to win by making use of young votes, that means those ages 40 and below''. The passing of Undi18 has led to a large increase in young voters. BN Kelantan Chairman Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub believes in social media as a means of reaching this demographic.
This political tussle is backdropped by flooding concerns as Kelantan is bracing for flash floods during the upcoming monsoon seasons. The minds of its residents are unsurprisingly on immediate problems with one voter saying, “We are not concerned by which party will govern, we want a party that understands the people, knows our struggles and so on”.
However, Pas Secretary-General Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan recently stated that PAS’ stance was clear: if asked, the party would join BN to form a simple majority. In essence, voting for either PAS or BN yields the same result. This puts to question the point of Kota Bharu residents weathering flash floods to vote for a seemingly predetermined outcome.
What do the experts project?
Unsurprisingly, both sides of the political spectrum believe that they have a fair shot at forming a simple majority. However, what do the analysts predict? EMIR Research, an independent think tank predicts that Pakatan Harapan would gain a plurality of 94 seats in Peninsula Malaysia, ahead of BN’s 46. This projection includes losses for BN in Bagan Datuk and Sungai Buloh while Muhammad Hassan in Rembau would be the most senior party leader left in Parliament.
Hisommudin Bakar, director of Ilham Centre states that no single coalition would be able to win a simple majority. As mentioned, Pas has stated their intent on switching teams in this scenario leading to a win for BN. The fight essentially boils down to BN and PN versus Pakatan Harapan. Since a majority of voters have already made up their minds, fence sitters, especially among the youth will likely determine the fate of our country in the upcoming election.