KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) must brace for protest votes against it in the Selangor state election from supporters still unsettled by its alliance with former rival Barisan Nasional (BN), according to political analysts polled by Malay Mail.
However, they said this would not be enough to put the coalition at risk of losing its hold on the country’s richest and most industrialised state, predicting that the phenomenon would be limited to fringes of the coalition’s support.
Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research (NASR) senior fellow Azmi Hassan told Malay Mail PH would also not suffer badly if Umno supporters abstained from supporting the coalition’s candidates, as it was not dependent on the Malay vote in Selangor.
“I think PH supporters are pragmatic. Because if they protest by not voting Umno in the upcoming state election, they are basically supporting the other side, that is PAS.
“Between Umno and PAS, Umno is preferable [for PH supporters],” he said.
With sections of each coalition still against their new partnership, the rival Perikatan Nasional (PN) has claimed it could manage enough of a swing to possibly take control of Selangor.
Political analyst Mujibu Abd Muis said Umno grassroots remained reluctant to support PH because of DAP, meaning the coalition could not count on the Malay nationalist party’s supporters for the August 12 state election.
“However, in the case of Selangor, it is not a big issue for PH as Umno is not as dominant as it used to be, due to the fact that it only won four seats there in the 14th general election compared to PH’s 51 seats,” he said.
While PH would be relatively safe against the so-called “green wave” — the term given to the groundswell of support for PN’s religious conservatism from the 15th general election — Mujibu said seats given to Umno to contest in Selangor could be at risk.
He said the Malay nationalist party could struggle to fend off Islamist party PAS in the Malay majority seats, particularly in the northern edge of the state.
However, he said Umno also could get an advantage in seats with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia incumbents, citing the backlash against the latter in GE15 that cost senior leaders such as Datuk Seri Azmin Ali his Gombak federal seat.
“But for PN to wrestle Selangor for PH is still mission impossible,” Mujibu concluded.
When contacted, assistant professor of political science at International Islamic University Malaysia Syaza Shukri predicted a status quo in Selangor despite the political upheaval since GE15.
She anticipated that PH would win at least 40 seats from the 56 in the state, with PN likely to capture around 10 or more, which was where both coalitions stood when the Selangor assembly was dissolved.
“I think Selangor and Penang will be relatively safe for PH. There will be some seats that they might lose but it’s not a major concern,” she said.
Syaza explained that PH should retain most of its seats on the back of its existing supporters, whom she said were unlikely to cast protest votes in a significant manner as they still considered the coalition to be largely in control of the national unity government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Instead of protest votes, she said it was more likely that disgruntled PH supporters would simply abstain from voting in the state election.
According to Universiti Sains Malaysia Social Science Studies Centre lecturer Sivamurugan Pandian, protest votes would most likely feature in Selangor’s 34 Malay-majority seats.
The severity of this to either PH or BN would also depend on the presence of internal sabotage, he said.
With non-Malay votes firmly in PH’s corner, however, he said the coalition should still be able to retain its existing seats, “but with a slimmer majority.”
On Wednesday, the Election Commission announced that polling for Selangor, Penang, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu state elections will be on August 12.
The 14th Selangor state assembly with its 56 seats was officially dissolved on June 23 following the consent of Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.