Malacca election: Amid reformists’ gloom, some positives emerge

Umno-BN has thrown down the gauntlet for the general election. But a lot can happen between now and then

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Amid the gloom, some light - BENEDICT LOPEZ

Here are some quick thoughts now that Barisan Nasional has cruised to a commanding victory in today’s Malacca state election.

Many who had hoped that the polls would reignite the momentum for reforms are feeling despondent. But there are some positives.

The first positive is that Umno-BN does not need Pas’ support to win. This means Pas’ bargaining power will be much reduced in the coming general election. Why would Umno want to allocate seats to Pas to contest in some Malay-majority seats when Umno would fancy its own chances in those seats?

This election shows that Pas is not that influential as it thinks it is, and the party is unlikely to be a ‘kingmaker’. Perhaps it should remain an East Coast party.

A comfortable win for BN and major losses for Perikatan Nasional marks the beginning of the end for PN’s main component party, Bersatu – that is, if the party has not already reached the end of the road. Perhaps a requiem is in order for Bersatu?

This could be a harbinger of what’s in store in the looming general election. Bersatu could well be wiped out. Others may think the party still carries some weight in some Malay-majority seats, with the help of Pas. Perhaps the outcome of the general election would take us back to the pre-2018 era.

The Umno-led government will be keen to build on this momentum by holding an early election perhaps to avoid an influx of young voters, ie before the lowering of the voting age to 18 takes effect.

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Some politicians from outside BN might be tempted to crawl back to Umno-BN after this chastening experience for PN. This might leave politicians like Bersatu’s Azmin Ali in ‘no man’s land’. He might want to start looking for another job.

Actually, the political ‘frogs’ or defectors fared disastrously in this election, losing all four seats. Idris Haron, for instance, lost by over 3,000 votes. Accepting them as PH candidates was not a popular move. In fact, some have argued that their defections forced an unnecessary election onto voters, and they were duly punished.

The positive is that the ‘market value’ and credibility of such defectors will surely drop after this – which can’t be a bad thing. This election shows that ‘frogs’ certainly did not sell well among the voters. It is a lesson for all future defectors.

Another poor PH decision was the one to replace Ginie Lim in her seat when she had solid grassroots support, compared to her PKR replacement. She was not selected because she was allegedly aligned to the Azmin faction, even though she remained loyal to the party. The MCA promptly captured that seat in this election.

These moves raise questions about PH leader Anwar Ibrahim’s judgement and reading of the situation on the ground and his riding roughshod over public opinion and the views of other PH parties. PH lost considerable ground in this election.

In contrast, Umno has gained ground on the back of its incumbency in the federal government. Budget 2022 witnessed a slew of handouts that would benefit, at least temporarily, the lower-income group. This advantage of the incumbency probably allowed the party to make more inroads.

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Within Umno, while some may like to think it was Malacca BN election chief Mohamad Hasan, the Umno deputy president, who stands to gain from this, others may see it as former Prime Minister and convict Najib Razak calling the shots. If it is the latter, it may be something that PH can use against BN in the general election.  

PH parties need to take a hard look at themselves and see how, if at all, they are going to make inroads in Sabah and Sarawak ahead of the general election. Perhaps they may want to mend relations with Shafie Apdal’s Warisan.

So Umno-BN has thrown down the gauntlet for the general election. But a lot can happen between now and then. PH would do well to figure out where it went wrong while there is still time.

Thanks to the Aliran team for their quick comments on the outcome, which formed the basis for this piece.

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