GEORGE TOWN, April 29 — In the previous general election, PAS which was in the Opposition coalition won only one seat in Penang and is seen as a party without much support in the state led by DAP.
This time, PAS is coming in as a neutral entity away from the opposition coalition by fielding young professional candidates against their GE13 allies.
The question now is can the Islamic-based party change the political scenario in the DAP stronghold state to help Barisan Nasional (BN) wrestle some seats in Penang in the 14th general election (GE14).
If seen in terms of support and candidates of BN and PAS as well as issues plaguing the DAP-led state, it is not impossible to threaten the domination of Pakatan Harapan, at least in reducing their majority votes this time.
Parliamentary constituencies such Kepala Batas, Tasek Gelugor and Balik Pulau which were won by BN in GE13 would be safe as BN is fielding the incumbents in the areas namely Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican (Kepala Batas), Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya (Balik Pulau) and Datuk Shabuddin Yahya (Tasek Gelugor).
The scenario however has changed for the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat, a PKR stronghold which saw PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail handing the seat over to her daughter and PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar.
Nurul Izzah who is expected to receive serious challenge from PAS candidate Afnan Hamimi Taib Azamudden and Permatang Pauh Umno division head Datuk Mohd Zaidi Mohd Said, also suffers the setback of not getting votes from PAS supporters in the area this time.
If PKR’s previous victory in Permatang Pauh was assisted by PAS votes especially in Permatang Pasir state seat which was represented PAS, now the PKR candidate has to contend with a split in the Malay majority constituency while BN supporters are firmly behind their party.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) political analyst Prof Dr Azmi Hassan said the contribution of PAS in the Opposition coalition before this could not be trivialised especially its grassroots machinery.
“With PAS outside of the opposition coalition, the majority for PKR will definitely be reduced...and with a new face in BN, an upset could not be ruled out,” he said.
He said contest in multiple corners as seen on nomination day in the state would work to BN’s advantage in GE14.
On nomination day, Penang also saw many state-based parties coming into the fray in parliamentary and state seats to fight for local issues such as floods, landslides, land reclamation and hillside development which failed to be addressed by the DAP state government.
In parliamentary constituencies, there are four areas with four-cornered fights, seven with three-cornered contest, and straight fights in two areas while for state seats, there are three areas with six-cornered fights, five-cornered tussle in eight constituencies, four-cornered fights in 11 seats, three-cornered contest in 17 areas and only one straight combat.
“This is actually aiding BN as DAP is only strong in straight fights...if there more contenders, BN will have edge,” Azmi said.
He said the combination of old and new faces fielded by BN especially in areas contested by Gerakan would also give voters the opportunity to see the difference.
DAP has also seen its dream of sweeping clean all 40 state seats in Penang in tatters when Pakatan Harapan candidate from PPBM, Yaacob Osman for Penaga rejected by the Election Commission for being a bankrupt. — Bernama