KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 — The six state elections today will be crucial for Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his Umno to learn where they and Barisan Nasional (BN) stand with Malay voters now.
Political analysts told Malay Mail that how Umno polls in the six elections will serve also as an indicator of broader sentiment towards the coalition’s place that is part of the national unity government.
Syaza Shukri, assistant professor of political science at International Islamic University Malaysia, said the elections would be a critical assessment of the partnership between the BN and Pakatan Harapan (PH).
From a broader perspective, she said it would effectively allow voters to pass judgment on the fledgling alliance.
“I guess it is important as a referendum for their collaboration with PH. To be honest, BN has not really won many new supporters because they haven’t shown genuine change improvement, and reforms.
“So, it’s about testing if they can retain the ones they still have,” she said.
Syaza said it appeared more likely that PH supporters would set aside their concerns and vote for Umno or BN out of aversion for the alternative option presented by the Perikatan Nasional (PN).
“But Umno supporters have a higher likelihood of choosing PN over PH. The only card I see from Umno is asking their grassroots to choose ‘stability’ and to respect the Agong’s wish.
“Anything other than that requires many months or years of backtracking on all their vitriol against PH,” she added.
Explaining further, political analyst Wong Chin Huat said that the strategic considerations and voting dynamics play a crucial role in shaping the outcome.
He said while PH voters tactically channel their support to prevent PN from gaining power, the challenge for the PH-BN alliance lies in ensuring the retention and alignment of Umno supporters to effectively counteract these opposing forces.
“DAP and PH voters are way more strategic than Umno voters since they want to stop PN or PAS coming into power. If they go out to vote, they will vote for Umno.
“Umno supporters may turn to PN or stay back at home,” he told Malay Mail.
Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said that the primary narrative shaping political discourse revolves around religious sentiments fanned by PN throughout the entire election campaign.
Given this context, Oh said that Umno was an attractive choice for a section of PH supporters who view it as a pragmatic response to counter the perceived threats posed by PAS and Bersatu, which are seen as worrying.
“Most surveys indicate that it’s the other way around, namely PH/DAP supporters are willing to support Umno which they see as the lesser evil against what they perceived as the biggest evils, namely PAS and by extension Bersatu.
“As religiosity is the main political narrative in Malay politics these days. Zahid could do very little to sway what is left of Umno’s dwindling support base,” he said.
A poor showing by Umno in the state elections could also have repercussions in Putrajaya, as this would put a spotlight on Zahid’s decision to align his party and coalition with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s PH.
The two engineered the partnership after the general election last year to thwart PN from seizing control of the federal government, after a “green wave” of religious conservatism carried PAS and Bersatu to the cusp.
Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Selangor, and Terengganu are all holding elections today as they did not dissolve their state assemblies along with Parliament for the 15th general election last year.