Analysts: Saksama won't win seats in GE14

Saksama spokesman Lina Soo says that any partnership would be dependent on the condition that peninsula-based parties refrain from contesting in Sabah or Sarawak. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Saksama spokesman Lina Soo says that any partnership would be dependent on the condition that peninsula-based parties refrain from contesting in Sabah or Sarawak. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 ― New opposition pact Gabungan Rakyat Saksama (Saksama) will not likely win seats and could even lose their election deposits in the next general election, analysts said.

Singapore-based academic Dr Oh Ei Sun said Saksama would not make much of a dent in the vote-haul of both ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) or federal opposition pact Pakatan Harapan in the 14th general election due by 2018.

“I don't think they will win any seats at all in this upcoming general elections, primarily for two reasons. In this country, you either have to have a lot of resources or money or you have to have a lot of charisma in order to be successful in politics.

“And as I see it, this new alliance, they neither have the resources nor the leaders' charisma to win any seats,” the senior fellow at the Institute of Defence & Strategic Studies under Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said.

Oh suggested that Saksama, which comprises seven parties from Sabah, Sarawak and the peninsula, may even lose their election deposits.

“They may get maybe 100 votes, 50 votes, 10 votes. I don't think they'll amount to much. In fact not at all, five votes maybe,” he said.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak's Dr Jeniri Amir also said the established parties in BN and Pakatan Harapan comprising PKR, the DAP and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) will remain the main contenders in the next election. Malaysia practises the first-past-the-post system that is typically dominated by the two largest parties or coalitions.

“I think what happened in the last state election is going to repeat itself. They are not going to win any seats because for a new party to establish itself would take [more than] two years,” the associate professor told Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday.

He was referring to the Sarawak state elections last May, in which unaffiliated opposition parties such as State Reform Party (Star) and Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDS Baru) did not win any seats.

The Saksama pact that is yet to be formally registered will have seven parties ― two from Sarawak, namely the Sarawak Reform Party (Reform) that was formerly known as Star and PBDS Baru, as well as one peninsula-based party, the People’s Alternative Party (PAP).

It will also have four Sabah-based parties, namely Parti Sejahtera Angkatan Perpaduan Sabah (SAPU), Pertubuhan Perpaduan Rakyat Kebangsaan Sabah (Perpaduan), Malaysia United People's Party (MUPP) and Parti Kebangsaan Sabah (PKS).

The Registrar of Societies only registered many of these political parties in September 2013 ― SAPU, PKS, Perpaduan and PBDS Baru.

Reform itself was only rebranded last June 26 from the Sarawak chapter of Star that parted ways with its Sabah chapter, while the little-known PAP was formed in September 2014 by former DAP deputy chairman Zulkifli Mohd Nor.

On top of the lack of financial resources and effective party machinery, it will also be tricky for Saksama to establish and coordinate its coalition across three different regions, Jeniri said.

“So you have seen what happened in Pakatan Harapan and Pakatan Rakyat. Even with three parties, it's difficult to manage, let alone seven parties with different ideologies,” he said, referring to the federal opposition pact and its earlier reincarnation.

Saksama also lacks strong and credible leaders akin to PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who can generate support from voters, he said.

Even if Saksama comes up with a “strong political narrative that can capture the political imagination of voters”, it can only hope to keep its deposit after contesting in the elections instead of counting on winning seats, he predicted.

He said Saksama would likely add to the fight among opposition parties for seat allocations in elections, noting that this new pact will split the votes within the opposition and that they will be indirectly “helping BN to win seats”.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Dr Faisal Hazis said the coalition of new and “smaller parties” would only have two years to prepare for elections amid a lack of leadership and strong grassroots support, contrasting Saksama with parties such as the DAP that spent decades contesting before making a breakthrough in Sarawak.

“Standing by itself, I don't think it'll pose a credible threat to BN or Pakatan. The main contest is still between BN and Pakatan Harapan,” the associate professor told Malay Mail Online this week.

Faisal said Saksama would likely be in “direct contest” with the Pakatan Harapan national-based opposition parties in the same seats, adding that they could potentially split votes meant for the opposition in some of the seats.

The key to making significant gains against BN would be to have a “single cohesive opposition coalition” that includes strong opposition parties, he said.

“So I would see Saksama would be a plus factor for the opposition if they join Pakatan Harapan and come out with a common platform with the main opposition parties and agree to one-to-one contests with BN,” he said.

While Pakatan Harapan has indicated their willingness to work with the seven-party group, Saksama spokesman Lina Soo told Malay Mail Online that any partnership would be dependent on the condition that peninsula-based parties refrain from contesting in Sabah or Sarawak.

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