Curtains up on the ‘great Malay fight’ shaping up

PETALING JAYA: In a few hours, one of the “biggest” elections in the country’s history will get under way in Melaka, one of the country’s smallest electoral battlegrounds.

There are only 28 seats up for grabs in the state assembly elections, triggered by yet another political crisis created by those in power.

It will be an election unlike any Malaysia has seen before.

It is the first to be held in the midst of a pandemic, under Covid-19 restrictions that will cause the entire election process, from nomination to campaigning to celebrations, held on a muted basis.

No public gatherings or social gatherings related to the election will be allowed until Nov 27, a departure from the Sabah state assembly elections of September 2020.

The three political coalitions, Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan will go head-to-head in the Melaka state elections.

There are also valid concerns about a possible low voter turn-out amid the pandemic and about how the restrictions on campaigning will affect opposition parties.

But more significantly, the Nov 20 election will be a preview of the great “Malay fight” anticipated at the next parliamentary general election (GE15) with Umno taking on Bersatu and PAS who will be contesting under the Perikatan Nasional banner.

The three main Malay parties, whose coming together toppled the Pakatan Harapan administration in 2020, are allies in the federal government, though the disdain between Umno and its splinter Bersatu is no secret.

Perhaps for the first time in the country’s history, a sitting prime minister will be campaigning for candidates of his own party against those of his allies in Putrajaya.

It will also be the first time that Umno and PAS will clash since their historic coming together under the Muafakat Nasional umbrella, as well as the first time since 1974 that PAS is not using its iconic green and white logo.

Joining the fray is Pakatan Harapan (PH), which is more than able to pull some Malay votes on top of the large support it enjoys from Chinese and Indian voters. PH, like BN and PN are contesting in all seats, ensuring at least three-cornered fights throughout the state.

On paper, the fight between Umno and Bersatu and PAS should give an advantage to PH but the former ruling coalition has issues of its own.

The decision by PKR and Amanah to accept two defectors, among four who toppled the state government last month, has not gone down well with DAP which stayed away from the unveiling of PH’s candidates on Saturday.

DAP has also raised questions about who will be chosen by PH as its candidate to be chief minister should it win power. The two candidates in the running have both held the position before — state PH chief Adly Zahari (2018-2020) and former Umno strongman Idris Haron (2013-2018).

Interestingly, the question as to who will be the candidate of the rival coalitions has also been unanswered. Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional have yet to name someone.

The only thing that is certain is that come Nov 20, there will be a new government in Melaka and we will have a better idea as to which party will enter GE15 with an advantage and bragging rights.

By : Robin Augustin – FMT

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