Malacca polls could end up with Bersatu-PAS wiped out

State polls will test PN’s viability for GE15.

ANALYSIS | The upcoming Malacca state polls are set to shape the national political landscape for the 15th general election.

This especially pertains to the viability of Bersatu and PAS’s Perikatan Nasional coalition – which could either get swept away into the Malacca straits or become a force to contend with.

Thus far, PAS is still adamant about brokering a truce between Bersatu and Umno.

Despite not having any seats in Malacca, it does still have a sizeable presence in the state, bagging 10.8 percent of state-level votes in 2018.

On the surface, this appears to show that if PAS sides with Bersatu, it could tilt the balance in a fight against Umno and possibly deny the latter a majority in the state legislative assembly.

To test this theory, we can use the Asahan state seat, which Bersatu narrowly lost to Umno by just 275 votes in 2018, as an example.

PAS – which came in last at the constituency – had bagged 1,365 votes in Asahan.

With Umno-BN holding on with such a slim majority, it is not impossible to imagine that a Bersatu-PAS combo could capture the seat.

But in a rudimentary simulation with the same voter turnout as 2018, where Malay votes for Bersatu, PAS, and Umno are unchanged, while only non-Malays will vote for Harapan – Umno still ends up the winner in a fight against PN.

A similar simulation in other seats (Lendu, Taboh Naning, Ayer Molek, Rim, Serkam, Merlimau) that Umno-BN won with less than 50 percent votes also returned similar results.

Real-life factors working against Bersatu

Meanwhile, running this simulation in Bersatu’s two Malacca state seats, Paya Rumput and Telok Mas, indicated that it would lose both seats, with Harapan taking Paya Rumput and Umno taking Telok Mas.

If these results play out in real life, it could mean that Bersatu and PAS would get wiped out in the Malacca polls.

This possibility may not be too far-fetched either, as other real-life factors are working against Bersatu as well.

Bersatu is likely to have lost some of its supporters to offshoot party Pejuang, while Harapan will likely retain some level of support among Malays on top of its non-Malay support.

Likewise, anti-Umno sentiment spurred by the 1MDB scandal in 2018 has died down, and many Malay voters have returned to Umno’s fold as can be seen during several by-elections in 2019 especially in Tanjung Piai, Johor.

This means that Bersatu may have even fewer Malay votes headed its way.

The only way it can avoid a wipeout then is if the party managed to entice enough Malay voters away from Umno, especially when Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin was prime minister.

But with Umno back at the helm of Putrajaya, any gains Bersatu may have made could be reversed.

The party will also have limited federal resources to play with now that Umno is in charge.

‘No chance for Bersatu in Malacca’

For political scientist Wong Chin Huat, there really is no hope for Bersatu in Malacca.

“With or without PAS, Bersatu has no fighting chance in Malacca,” he said.

He said that while PAS may be the best ally Bersatu can have, there will be limited upside from this partnership as the Islamist party does not have any base from Selangor southwards.

“I can’t see any rationale for Malacca Umno to give way to Bersatu or PAS when it can establish itself as the only Malay conservative party in the state,” Wong added.

Sticking with Bersatu, then, may not pay dividends for PAS.

Inversely, if PAS supports Umno and BN, then they may have a fighting chance at winning Paya Rumput, Gadek, Klebang, Bemban, and Duyong from Harapan – which would give BN-PAS 18 seats, more than enough to form a state government.

Thus, the choice for PAS could be whether it sinks with Bersatu, or swims with Umno.

The possibility of a poor showing for Bersatu in Malacca may be surprising to some considering that it did relatively well in the Sabah 2020 elections.

However, it could be hypothesised that their positive performance then may partly be due to it allying with Umno at the time, meaning that BN votes would have gone their way.

If the worst-case scenario for Bersatu happens in Malacca, the same fate may await it in GE15.

The party does not have a strong grassroots, and all the factors which eroded its Malay support in Malacca also apply nationwide.

According to Wong, a poor showing by Bersatu in Malacca would embolden Umno to press harder against PN.

“(If this happens) on the southwest from Selangor to Johor, Bersatu leaders may gradually return to Umno.

“It’s bad news for Bersatu but there is nothing to lose for PAS. If there is no deal, PAS could contest in a few seats just to test the water,” he added.

The Malacca assembly has 28 seats.

The incumbent BN-led Malacca government was represented by 17 assemblypersons, comprising 14 from Umno, two from Bersatu and one BN-friendly Independent, while the opposition has 11 seats – seven from DAP, and two each from PKR and Amanah.

The state government had collapsed and snap elections were called following a failed rebellion led by former chief minister Idris Haron who has since been sacked from Umno.


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