Analysts see Perikatan Nasional's (PN) victory in the recent Padang Serai election as a clear signal of a decline in Malay support for Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN).
Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said the situation was especially obvious in Malay-majority areas based on the results of the 15th general election (GE15), which saw Umno winning just 26 seats in Parliament.
"Certainly there are links with Umno's support among the Malays," he told MalaysiaNow.
PN candidate Azman Nasrudin won 51,637 votes in Padang Serai, beating five other contenders and leading with a comfortable margin of 16,260.
His victory handed PN yet another seat, seen as a PKR stronghold since 2008.
Mazlan said the triumph of the Lunas assemblyman was further proof of the continued momentum of the "green tsunami" first seen in the Nov 19 election.
"In Terengganu and Kelantan, for example, PAS won with huge majorities of 30,000 to 40,000.
"Normally in Terengganu, majorities are in the 7,000 to 8,000 range. This means that there is a trend of support among the Malays for PN in the north and east coasts, but not in other areas," he said, adding that Pakatan Harapan (PH) still had the support of the Malays in urban and semi-urban areas like Kuala Selangor and Shah Alam.
The elections in Padang Serai and for the state seat of Tioman were held about a week after Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced his Cabinet line-up.
This saw, among others, the appointment of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as one of two deputy prime ministers despite the string of charges against him in court.
For now, Mazlan said, there was no clear link between Zahid's appointment and the pattern of voting.
Even before Zahid's reappointment to the number two position in government, Umno's performance and support had taken a severe hit, he added.
"The sentiments against Umno were there even during GE15, but not because of Zahid's appointment as deputy prime minister," he said.
"PH's performance in Padang Serai was also quite reasonable."
Ahmad Martadha Mohamed of Universiti Utara Malaysia agreed. He said the results of the Padang Serai election were in line with the sentiments shown by Malay voters throughout the rest of Kedah as well as in Kelantan, Terengganu and Perlis.
"What we are seeing now is a continuation of the scenario that played out at GE15," he said.
Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said the existing voting pattern had already shown that the majority of Malays supported PN while the non-Malays would be inclined to support PH.
This time around, however, the split in Malay votes was no longer the same.
"Previously, the split was among BN, PH and PN. But this time, it was only PN and PH," he said.
"The Malay votes which once went to BN changed direction, as seen in other places. This is the voting pattern that we see continuing."
For Martadha, the swing in Malay vote away from BN had more to do with a rejection of DAP than of Zahid.
He said previous voting patterns had already shown a distancing from DAP in Malay-majority areas. Because DAP was in PH, he said, the Malay voters had shifted their support to PN.
"Now, Umno is working with DAP, so indirectly this pattern will continue," he added.
PH candidate Mohamad Sofee Razak came in second at the Padang Serai polls, with 35,377 votes, followed by BN's C Sivaraj with 2,983.
Independent candidate Sreanandha Rao meanwhile won 846 votes, followed by Pejuang's Hamzah Abd Rahman with 424 and Mohd Bakhri Hashim of Warisan with 149.
PN's victory in Padang Serai handed it another seat in Parliament, taking its total tally to 74.
Voting for Padang Serai was postponed following the death of PH candidate M Karupaiya on Nov 16, the day before the general election.
Karupaiya, the Padang Serai incumbent, won the seat at the 2018 election, beating PAS candidate Muhamad Sobri Osman and Dr Leong Yong Kong of BN.