- Advertisement -

Nothing wrong with dreaming, analysts say on BN retaking Penang

But they say the chances of this actually happening are low.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
Election workers put up Barisan Nasional flags at Jalan Bukit Senjuang in Melaka ahead of the state polls last November.
Election workers put up Barisan Nasional flags at Jalan Bukit Senjuang in Melaka ahead of the state polls last November.

Political analysts appear sceptical of Barisan Nasional's (BN) chances in Penang despite the recent optimism shown by Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan about the coalition's odds in the state when the 15th general election (GE15) is called. 

Penang has been under Pakatan Harapan (PH) rule for three terms since 2008 when the pact was known as Pakatan Rakyat. 

Lim Guan Eng, who was DAP secretary-general at the time, was appointed as chief minister, replacing Gerakan's Koh Tsu Koon. 

Mohamad, who is BN's election director, had said on July 24 that the coalition's machinery in the state was 50% ready

He added that while it would be difficult to defeat DAP in Penang, it was not impossible given that BN had won in seats traditionally held by the party in the Melaka, Sarawak and Johor state elections. 

But former Penang BN secretary Azizi Safar said that politics in the state, popularly known as the Pearl of the Orient, could not be equated with that of Johor and Melaka where BN had swept to victory at the recent polls. 

"BN did not lose in Melaka, Johor and Sarawak in 2008," he said. 

While there was nothing wrong with dreaming about the political situation in Penang, he added, it would be next to impossible for BN to topple DAP, PH's main pillar in the state. 

He said even the top Umno and BN leadership in Kuala Lumpur had never dreamed of retaking Penang. 

This was despite the huge amounts from 1MDB spent by NGOs in Penang because Najib Razak, the prime minister at the time, was convinced that BN could sweep to victory once more if it used the services of those groups. 

"DAP and PH are still strong," Azizi said. "Even if they have lost a bit of support, it is not enough for BN to topple DAP in Penang."  

BN won two state seats in Penang at the 14th general election while PAS won one. The remaining seats were won by PH which contested under the PKR banner. 

The latest division of seats shows 33 under PH, five under Perikatan Nasional and two under BN. 

Of the 33 held by PH, DAP has the most at 19, followed by PKR (12) and Amanah (two). 

Hisommudin Bakar of electoral think tank Ilham Centre agreed that it would be difficult for BN to retake Penang. 

Responding to Mohamad's remarks about BN's achievements in the recent state elections, he said general elections were a completely different ball game. 

"Election machineries can focus on gaining control in smaller constituencies," he said of state elections. 

"But in general elections, everyone is focused on their own areas." 

Wong Chin Huat of the Jeffrey Cheah Institute said a BN victory would only be possible if the voter turnout was below 60%, as had occurred in Johor where only 55% went out to vote. 

"A turnout that low would mean that parties and coalitions are left only with their loyal supporters as voters who are on the fence will be too lazy to cast their ballots," he said. 

In such an event, he said, BN would have the edge as its vote value was more than that of the opposition.

"This is the result of the one-sided demarcation of electoral areas we have had this entire time," he added.

Wong expects DAP to successfully defend the majority of its seats even if the voter turnout is low, although it might be difficult for the party to maintain its hold on all 19 state constituencies. 

"Penang's water supply and the reclamation efforts will be the focus of voters at GE15," he said.

Hisommudin meanwhile said the state government would be under more pressure this time around due to the rising price of goods, the drop in palm oil prices, and the shortage of food supplies. 

"The level of dissatisfaction with the government is likely to increase given the worsening economic outlook around the world," he added.

"This will have a direct impact on the popularity of BN, which is currently leading the federal administration."