KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) stance as a coalition representing all Malaysians would be further threatened if it abandons any ambition to win control of Kelantan and Terengganu, according to political analysts polled by Malay Mail.
Universiti Sains Malaysia's political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said that failing to offer a challenge in both states would also be extremely demoralising for PH-PKR supporters there, many of whom have faced familial stigma for their political choices.
"If you are not able or not willing to put up candidates for two states, what claim do you have of being a national party and one that fights for the whole nation, what more with Kelantan and Terengganu being predominantly Malay states,” he told Malay Mail, referring to PH.
Syaza Shukri, assistant professor of political science at International Islamic University Malaysia, said that this lack of aim to form the state governments there would leave legitimate questions about PH’s sincerity to improve governance in the two states.
"By bowing out early it shows that they admit they do not have the support of rural Malays.
"Though I think that’s not true. Support for PH is there. But they’re sending a signal that the basis of their legitimacy is not dependent on Kelantan and Terengganu, which is sad.
"Because if they can make inroads there, even without forming the government, that’s good enough to show support for PH all over the country,” she added.
This comes as PKR secretary-general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail told the party's Special National Congress this month that PH should not aim too far for Kelantan and Terengganu.
Despite urging the grassroots to double up efforts to retake Kedah, Saifuddin suggested that the coalition instead plan to be a "strong Opposition” in the two East Coast states.
The analysts however concurred that focusing resources on more prioritised areas is a reasonable strategy — such as the focus on just Kedah this time around.
DAP’s Lim Guan Eng also told Malay Mail when met in Parliament on Tuesday that it is crucial for the coalition to retain control of the states currently held by the PH and Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government — although he added that PH would not give up on the Perikatan Nasional-controlled states, "especially Kedah”.
The Kedah state government has traditionally been held by BN, but was led by Pakatan Harapan former component Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia after the 2018 general election.
It is now led by Perikatan Nasional and its component PAS. The Islamist party had also governed the state between 2008 and 2013.
Ahmad Fauzi said that he understood PH’s desire to use resources "where they are needed most”, such as to defend Selangor and Negeri Sembilan from a growing PN support base, but he thought that more could be done for Terengganu.
"I would understand this for Kelantan, but Terengganu is a state that BN had been controlling until 2018, albeit with a slim majority in the state assembly.
"Since PH-PKR would ally with BN this time round, wouldn't it be reasonable to put up a fight there with an Umno figure as the potential MB?,” he said, suggesting that the charge could be led by younger figures such as former Air Putih assemblyman Wan Abdul Hakim Wan Mokhtar.
However, Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research (NASR) senior fellow Azmi Hassan said that PH’s negative reputation — due to voters' perception of component party DAP — in Kelantan and Terengganu would sour the chances of a PH-BN joint campaign winning there.
"I think strategically it is wise for PH to leave the states alone for BN-Umno to do the fight, because Umno is basically more well respected and believed in Kelantan and Terengganu.
"By letting Umno handle these two states, the perception would be that PH wants the best for Kelantan and Terengganu,” he said.
Six states declined to have their state elections at the same time as the 15th general election last year, and thus need to hold their polls this year as the current state assemblies’ terms come to an end.
Selangor and Kelantan need to have their elections by August; Terengganu, Negri Sembilan and Kedah by early September; and Penang by early October.