KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Umno will emerge the winner if statewide polls are called in Melaka, given the party’s more prominent history and grassroots support there, said political analysts.
Pundits told Malay Mail how Umno would most likely benefit from the current political crisis in the state despite the ongoing friction between them and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) that could potentially split the Malay votes.
“The Opposition would benefit a little if Umno and Bersatu are facing off each other in constituencies, but ultimately I think in rural constituencies Umno is still likely to win even if Bersatu sends in their own candidates,” Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said.
Oh even went as far as predicting it to be a washout for Pakatan Harapan (PH) with Umno coming out on top.
“I think Umno will dominate after the election, it will be like a precursor to a general election, where I think Bersatu is more or less counting its days,” he projected boldly.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Geostrategist Professor Azmi Hassan agreed that Umno has the upper hand in Melaka, adding how the party is well aware of this advantage.
“If there's an election, Umno will come out on top compared to Bersatu and Pakatan Harapan (PH).
“That is the reason why Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said they are willing to go it alone, and also the reason why Bersatu Melaka has said they are willing to work with Barisan Nasional (BN),” said Azmi.
Half of the quartet who withdrew their support for Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Sulaiman Md Ali are former Umno assemblymen but Azmi said the party could easily be disassociate itself from the actions of these two, escaping negative perception.
“Yes, they (Umno) might have internal problems, but the key issue is that people do not lay the blame on Umno itself, and they lay the blame on the four assemblymen for the current situation they are in,” he said.
Concurring with them is Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political analyst and associate professor Kartini Aboo Talib, who said BN and especially Umno’s strong position in the state might even see them add a few more seats to their numbers if an election is called.
“If the state goes to an election, every representative will campaign for a better Malaysia of course, and may even provide a few ways to overcome the impact of the pandemic especially on business, SMEs, education, health provision, and such.
“BN can either retain or win several more seats depending on how well the voters accept the plan for improving the wellbeing of the people, or what is next for them after the pandemic,” she said.
Kartini warned that despite the apparent advantage enjoyed by Umno, a probable outcome is one where no party has sufficient seats to helm the state all alone.
“Melaka before GE14 has always been the fortress of Umno and BN, but GE14 exhibited a razor-thin majority for Umno and BN in a few states, including Melaka. The state government will collapse with a slight twist and turn.
“The polarisation of thin majorities is basically the cause,” she asserted.
Kartini said this dilemma could force even the dominant party with the most seats to align themselves with other organisations.
“Malaysia is unique. No party can form a government without power-sharing, but the question is which side of the coalition?
“That decision belongs to the voters of Melaka,” she said.
Azmi agreed that even if Umno ended up winning more seats than Bersatu, it would be unlikely to be enough to form a government on its own.
“And again, Umno plus Bersatu is needed to form the state government, but most probably Umno will have a comfortable number of seats,” he said.
The need for a new state government, which would be the third in as many years in Melaka, was triggered by the withdrawal of support for Umno’s Sulaiman Md Ali by four assemblymen, causing him to lose the majority.
The four are Datuk Seri Idris Haron (Sungai Udang), Datuk Noor Azman Hassan (Pantai Kundur), Datuk Noor Effandi Ahmad (Telok Mas), and Datuk Norhizam Hassan Baktee (Pengkalan Batu).
Idris, a former chief minister, and Noor Azman were later sacked by Umno for their betrayal of the BN-led government, while Noor Effandi was also dismissed by Bersatu. Norhizam, formerly from DAP, is an independent.
Following their withdrawal, Melaka Governor Tun Mohd Ali Rustam consented to the dissolution of the state assembly, which triggered the requirement for snap polls within 60 days.
PH Melaka has since claimed that Mohd Ali erred in his decision to dissolve the state assembly, saying Sulaiman Md Ali, by losing the majority, also lost his appointment as chief minister and eligibility to advise the Governor, therefore nullifying the dissolution.
However, if tensions between Umno and Bersatu continue, Universiti Malaya’s Associate Prof Awang Azman Awang Pawi said BN will find it difficult trying to prepare for an election while overseeing damage control.
He instead sees the main challenge for Melaka BN would be their retaining all their seats given the internal party fractures of Umno, foreseeing possible clashes among party colleagues at the polls.
In this situation, Awang Azman said PH could find themselves benefiting while their opponents are preoccupied with settling internal scores.
“This is when (PH components) PKR and Parti Amanah Negara must take advantage of the cracks within Umno, as cooperation between Umno and Bersatu is seen as something that is unlikely to happen.
“PH would do well here to show they are the ones with more integrity and by showing their service to be better than those of their political foes,” he said, adding that he predicts PH winning if elections are called.
Kartini also does not rule out PH blindsiding the incumbents.
“Well, people used to say that when there is a conflict, there is an opportunity; PH can always benefit from the instability and rally a campaign for a government with better integrity,” she added.
The Melaka State Legislative Assembly has 28 state constituencies and Perikatan Nasional (PN) had the support of 17 lawmakers before the withdrawal of the four assemblymen.
Idris, Norhizam and Noor Effandi were appointed as state executive councillors after the change of government in March last year, as a consequence of PH’s collapse the month before from the Sheraton Move.
That administrative realignment, however, took place without dissolving the Legislative Assembly and birthed PN, despite the then chief minister Adly Zahari’s advice to the governor to pave the way for an election.
On Tuesday, the Election Commission (EC) reportedly received an official notification about the dissolution of the 14th Melaka Legislative Assembly, but has yet to make an official announcement if polls will be held.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had said Cabinet is set to discuss the matter as it involved not only public health factors but also legal and constitutional considerations.
Khairy did say that his ministry would provide the necessary standard operating procedures to the EC if an election is held.