- Advertisement -

The case against holding separate state elections

Analysts say that Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional would gain more from dissolving their state legislative assemblies in tandem with Parliament.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
Early voters queue to cast their ballots at the SMK Sri Muar polling station during the Johor state election on March 12.
Early voters queue to cast their ballots at the SMK Sri Muar polling station during the Johor state election on March 12.

Analysts warn that holding separate elections at the state level could backfire on coalitions, as a number of state governments under Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) maintain the decision not to dissolve their legislative assemblies to allow polls in tandem with the 15th general election (GE15). 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, they said this could also risk a loss of power for the coalitions at the state level. 

Ismail Sualman of Universiti Teknologi Mara said holding state elections at the same time as GE15 would allow the synchronisation of strategies, tactics and propaganda to woo the support of voters. 

He said voters tend to choose whichever party they want at both levels without any reservations. 

"It's easier for voters to choose according to their voting pattern if the elections are held simultaneously," he said. 

"Political parties meanwhile will have equal opportunities and space on the same playing field.

"If a party loses in GE15, the danger of postponing state elections is that the same pattern will repeat itself." 

So far, only a handful of states – Pahang, Perlis and Perak – have decided to hold elections if they obtain the consent of their respective rulers. 

Melaka, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak are not involved as they recently held polls at the state level.  

The three states under PAS – Kelantan, Kedah and Terengganu – will not dissolve their legislative assemblies. 

PH, meanwhile, which rules Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Penang, had said that it would not dissolve its assemblies either, although PKR president Anwar Ibrahim said this week that the states had been told to hold detailed discussions with their component party leaderships to find common ground on the matter. 

The decision not to dissolve the assemblies in these states came as a form of protest against Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob's move on Oct 10 to dissolve Parliament, paving the way for GE15 this year despite strong objections due to concerns over the annual monsoon floods. 

Ismail had announced the dissolution of Parliament after coming under strong pressure from Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, although he later denied any influence in his decision.

Analyst Hisommudin Bakar said PH and PN should hold state elections at the same time as GE15 in order to save time and money – issues the coalitions had raised when Barisan Nasional (BN) moved to hold polls in Melaka and Johor. 

Hisommudin, of electoral think tank Ilham Centre, added that the legislative assemblies in these states were approaching the due date for expiry. 

"Voters might consider it annoying to have to go out to vote twice," he said. 

"And they will be influenced by the decisions they made at the Parliament level."

If these states persisted in holding separate elections, he said, Umno would have the edge. 

"It might turn out badly for PH if BN-Umno wins at the federal level." 

Ahmad Atory Hussain, who has studied Malay politics for decades, agreed. 

He said if BN succeeded in taking Putrajaya, PH and PAS would be shooting themselves in the foot if they did not dissolve their state assemblies. 

"BN would channel all of its strength and assets to topple the state governments under PH and PAS," he said. 

Kartini Aboo Talib of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia meanwhile said that states currently under opposition rule would be influenced if BN took over the central government. 

"The nature of federal-state administrative affairs would give the states incentive to win together with Umno and BN," she said. 

"This would be vis-a-vis with any coalition that succeeds in forming the federal government." 

Ismail said it would be difficult for those living away from their home towns or outside of the country to return again next year to vote at the state level. 

This could cause a low voter turnout which in turn would benefit BN, he said. 

Hisommudin meanwhile said PH and PN should be confident in the strength of support for their administrations. 

"If support is strong, and the people have benefited from their rule for the past four years, they should have nothing to fear in dissolving their state assemblies," he said.