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Pelangai a different ball game, analyst says after PH win in Johor by-elections

A key factor is the demographic of voters, almost 70% of whom are Malay.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
2 minute read
A motorcyclist passes the flags of Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan in Simpang Jeram, ahead of the by-election on Sept 9.
A motorcyclist passes the flags of Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan in Simpang Jeram, ahead of the by-election on Sept 9.

An analyst says that Pelangai, a state constituency in Pahang where the country's fourth by-election this year will be held next month, might present a different playing field from Simpang Jeram and Pulai in Johor where Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN) prevailed at the Sept 9 polls. 

Azmil Tayeb of Universiti Sains Malaysia said this was mainly due to the demographic of voters in Pelangai, whose assemblyman Johari Harun died in a plane crash in August. 

"In Pulai and Simpang Jeram, voters were almost equally divided between Malays and non-Malays," he said. 

"But in Pelangai, Malays make up more than 70% of the electorate. Given that Perikatan Nasional (PN) won more than 90% of the Malay-majority constituencies at the last state election, it has good odds of winning there, too." 

At the by-elections in Johor, PH candidates Suhaizan Kayat and Nazri Abdul Rahman won with majorities of about 18,000 and 3,500 respectively. 

However, former Umno Supreme Council member Isham Jalil noted that BN in partnership with PH had lost more than 27,000 Malay votes in both seats. 

"Malay support for PN increased by 9,000 votes from 20,000 at the 15th general election (GE15) to 29,000 in this by-election," Isham, a former Umno information chief, said in a Facebook post. 

"Malay support for PH-BN meanwhile decreased by 27,000 votes from 34,000 at GE15 to 7,000 in this by-election. Of this number, it is estimated that 18,000 did not turn out to vote, and 9,000 others switched camps to PN." 

The by-election for Pelangai will be held on Oct 7. Johari, who was also a Pahang state exco, won the seat with a majority of just over 4,000 in a four-way fight with candidates from PN, PH and Pejuang.  

Analyst Mazlan Ali meanwhile said that PH's victory in Simpang Jeram and Pulai had created momentum for the alliance in Pelangai. 

"The cooperation between PH and BN will be more evident after this," Mazlan, of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, said. 

"Pelangai is located in the Bentong parliamentary constituency which has a significant number of non-Malay voters. 

"Umno supporters will turn out in force as it is a candidate from BN that is being fielded there." 

Mazlan said problems would only arise if a candidate was fielded from PH, as BN supporters would hesitate to lend their support to the coalition. 

"It will not be an issue for PH supporters to back a candidate from BN," he added. 

The by-elections in Simpang Jeram and Pulai had witnessed low voter turnouts of 45% and 59% respectively, against the target of 70%.

But Azmil said the numbers could not provide a full picture of PH's victory in the seats.

He also said that the decision to grant Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi a discharge not amounting to acquittal for the 47 corruption charges against him would likely influence the Malay vote in Pelangai to a greater degree than in Simpang Jeram and Pulai. 

"It will not persuade BN supporters that Umno is undergoing change, or give them a reason to support BN instead of PN," he said.