Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Could underdog PN come from behind in BN-PH battle for Melaka?

While observers believe the fight will be between the two older coalitions, they do not discount the possibility of PN causing an upset.

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Some 476,000 voters in Melaka will determine the next state administration today, after two weeks of campaigns held under strict Covid-19 measures in a pandemic-era first for polls.

A total of 11,557 early voters already cast their votes on Nov 16, while 7,601 others will be sending their ballots through the post.

Attention continues to focus on the three main political blocs: Pakatan Harapan (PH), Barisan Nasional (BN) and Perikatan Nasional (PN).

Theirs are among the 112 candidates contesting the 28 seats in the state legislative assembly.

At times, the campaigns saw political parties attacking and spreading propaganda about the two others.

A couple on a motorcycle make their way past dozens of Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional flags at Bukit Rambai in Melaka.

BN had launched an attack on PN, its partner at the federal level, before even nominating its candidates when seat negotiations failed to find common ground between the three Malay parties – Umno, Bersatu and PAS.

PN meanwhile reminded voters that the Melaka election had been sparked by a power struggle among Umno politicians, resulting in the dissolution of the state legislative assembly after four assemblymen jumped ship.

PH, whose components were initially at loggerheads over the coalition’s candidate for chief minister, finally came to an agreement after PKR president Anwar Ibrahim complied with DAP’s call for Adly Zahari from Amanah to be nominated for the role.

The question of who would be nominated for the role was also a hot topic in BN, with the initial option of Melaka BN chairman Ab Rauf Yusoh or the incumbent, Sulaiman Md Ali.

BN eventually chose Sulaiman as its candidate.

PN on the other hand made a bold move in naming Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, who will become Malaysia’s first woman head of state if the coalition succeeds in forming the next administration.

Tight SOPs

Nevertheless, all of the parties struggled with the same problem of how to campaign within the tight constraints put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 during the election period.

These included a ban on traditional election activities such as physical campaigns, lectures and house-to-house visits.

An Election Commission officer in full personal protective equipment disinfects the polling centre at SK Asahan.

The measures succeeded in lowering the political temperature on the field, although clashes also moved online, carried out in the digital arena through posters, social media posts and live streamed lectures.

Mudslinging was also kept to a minimum with most candidates opting to cut down or refrain altogether from hitting out at their opponents.

In general, observers expect the results to swing in favour of either PH or BN forming the next state government.

Both coalitions could win anywhere between eight and 10 seats.

Which way the vote tilts in the remaining eight to 12 seats will determine who emerges the victor.

Political analyst Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia who conducted a study on 4,000 respondents in Melaka said chances are 50-50 between BN and PH.

Motorcyclists stop at the traffic light of a junction hung with Barisan Nasional posters.

“The people are more inclined towards stability,” he told MalaysiaNow. “For two years, they have endured many hardships and challenges due to Covid-19.”

Stability, for him, will be the main factor in this election.

On paper, Umno has strong support from its grassroots although voters in Melaka are somewhat open after 22 months of PH rule, he said.

PH’s chief minister candidate, Adly, is popular among the voters including in areas considered as Umno strongholds, he added.

“PH will win if outstation voters return and the percentage of non-Malay voters who turn up is high,” he said.

Otherwise, Mazlan expects BN will have a chance of winning the race.

PN could surprise

Nevertheless, he said this does not mean that PN, led by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, should be discounted.

Workers from the Perikatan Nasional election machinery put up a billboard showing the face of the coalition’s candidate in Klebang.

This is because PAS votes which will go towards PN comprise 10 to 13% of the total ballots.

“PN will be able to form the state government if it can draw the votes that normally go to BN and PH,” he said.

He added that PN could cause an upset in at least four seats although it will not be able to form the government without a shift of support from BN assemblymen.

Ilham Center executive director Mohamad Hisommudin Bakar said fierce fights can be expected in mixed constituencies with 50 to 69% made up of Malay voters.

Such seats include Rim, Kelebang, Rembia, Pengkalan Batu, Bukit Katil, Asahan, Paya Rumput, Bemban, Duyong and Gadek.

“BN is ahead of the other two pacts,” he said.

“The two factors that would give PH a chance to win are a voter turnout of more than 80% and if PN succeeds in splitting the Malay vote that normally goes to BN.

“If neither of these two scenarios plays out, BN could have a chance to win.”

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