IT will be a “smart move” by the Selangor government to dissolve the state assembly ahead of the 14th general election to ward off the effects of the re-delineation of electoral boundaries in favour of Barisan Nasional, analysts said.
Commenting on the contentious re-delineation exercise by the Election Commission, they said holding state polls ahead of GE14, which must be held before August, can be an advantage to Pakatan Harapan in Selangor.
The PH-held state government is currently in a legal battle with the EC on the re-delineation of its electoral boundaries.
The re-delineation exercise is expected to favour BN but PH can ward this off if the state assembly is dissolved before national elections are called, said Wong Chin Huat, head of the Penang Institute political studies programme.
“If the Selangor legislature is dissolved tomorrow, a state election will have to be called within two months, and the electoral rolls used would be that currently in place. Gerrymandering will be smartly defeated,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
“If Azmin (Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamad Azmin Ali) dissolves the Selangor assembly to bring forward the battle, not only he stands a greater chance for a solid victory, his standing as a bold and strategic leader will also go up.
“Opposition MBs and chief ministers have been following BN’s command in calling elections. Azmin can show that he is not just another opposition MB.”
There are 22 parliamentary and 56 state seats in Selangor. PH lawmakers are challenging the re-delineation exercise as they feel they will be impacted on at the next elections.
The Malaysian Insight recently interviewed Hulu Kelang assemblyman Saari Sungib, who acknowledged that he is staring defeat at GE14 if the proposed boundary changes to his constituency are pushed through.
This is because a chunk of his support base, which contributed to his winning majorities in the last two elections, is being moved out to a neighbouring constituency.
Parliament will automatically dissolve on June 24 and the GE must be held within 60 days of the dissolution. The EC decides when polls are held.
In Selangor, it is the MB who decides when to dissolve the state legislature, with only royal consent needed from Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.
“There is no question of illegality,” Wong said, adding that under the Election Act 1958, the state’s electoral rolls that are in force must be used when the legislature is dissolved.
“No way the EC can use the new boundaries.”
An early election would allow PH to assess its strength in GE14, at least for parliamentary constituencies in Selangor, Wong said.
“If multi-cornered contests are inevitable, then PH can assess its winnability. It cannot be worse than multi-cornered contests after re-delineation.
“However, multi-cornered contests may be minimised in Selangor if there is an early dissolution, because seat negotiations with PAS can be settled on its own.
“PAS Selangor knows well they would be the first victims in multi-cornered fights.”
Last week, the Shah Alam High Court struck out the Selangor government’s application to postpone its scheduled appearance at a local inquiry on the re-delineation exercise by the EC.
The EC public inquiry will proceed as usual without representatives from the Selangor government present.
The state government had earlier applied to nullify the EC’s proposed re-delineation exercise that would redraw the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies, which it claims violates the federal constitution.
Selangor also sought a declaration the EC had violated constitutional provisions on the delimitation of election constituencies, leading to a malapportioned number of voters in seats.
The state government also cited EC’s failure to use the latest electoral roll in its re-delineation exercise, adding that the roll it had relied on was incomplete and inaccurate, affecting 136,272 voters in Selangor.
Universiti Malaya associate professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi agreed with Wong that calling for an early state polls would be best final political strategy by PKR to save the Selangor PH government from falling into the hands of BN.
“The redrawing of the borders is the ultimate weapon by BN to shift support, in particular Malay voters, even if they may not necessarily support BN,” Awang Azman said.
Awang Azam, who is a faculty member of UM’s Academy of Malay Studies, said he saw “no major issues” as long as the dissolution receives the approval from the Selangor sultan.
“A defeat or victory would be a huge indicator of how the general election would be fought. A separate state election would in essence serve as an acid test to gauge the cooperation PH is capable of or otherwise.
“We would also be able to see how PAS behaves, whether they truly will oppose PKR or they would behave as close partners of the Selangor PH government.”
The appeal of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who were named as PH prime minister and deputy prime minister candidates on Sunday, could also be gauged.
“A massive BN defeat in Selangor would almost certainly affect morale in facing the general election. It would undoubtedly have an effect on the overall performance of BN.”
Meanwhile, independent analyst Khoo Kay Peng disagreed with early state polls: “It is not illegal but imprudent since the general election is three months away. And he (Azmin) needs to get clearance from the sultan, too, for this.
“Azmin should not be worried about re-delineation if his coalition did their work to get support from Selangor voters,” Khoo said.
He, however, added that if the electoral re-delineation is pushed through, the public may react negatively to it.
“It may not be completely beneficial to BN, too, if the people can be galvanised to protest against the move through the ballot box.
“Support for BN is not a constant. How else do you think the opposition won the state in 2008 after decades (of BN control)?
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia associate professor Faisal S. Hazis felt it was “too late” to call a state election.
“Even if Selangor dissolves its state assembly early, the state election could still be held simultaneously with the general election,” said the head of the Asian Studies Centre of UKM’s Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (Ikmas).
“Sabah also planned to hold a separate state election last year, but Prime Minister Najib Razak disagreed.”
Pakatan confident of retaining Selangor, won’t hold state polls now
PAKATAN Harapan is confident that it will retain control of Selangor despite a re-delineation exercise by the Election Commission (EC), which is expected to favour the ruling Barisan Nasional, in the next elections.
It is this confidence which has led the pact to choose not to hold early polls in Selangor, fearing instead that it may confuse voters so close to the national elections which must be called by August.
PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli said holding the state polls early would be a waste of resources.
“I think it is a bit too late to move in that direction. Between now and the final date (the general election is called) is probably two to three months. The effects are not big.
“If the proposal was put forward a year ago, for early state polls, I’m confident we would win and have a big impact on GE14 (14th general election).
“Now there’s no difference if it’s called now. Maybe BN would decide to dissolve (Parliament) also and carry out the elections at the same time. I think the people would be confused and feel ‘Why go through the trouble when the difference is only a few months?’,” Rafizi told The Malaysian Insight.
DAP publicity secretary Ng Suee Lim also expressed confidence that Selangor would continue to remain with PH due to its “excellent” administrative record.
“BN may have some advantage in the re-delineation process and that has always been their agenda to win Selangor.
“However, I’m confident the grassroots support, especially among the Malays, would be in favour of supporting PH despite the BN tactics to change the borders and to use phantom voters,” said the Sekinchan assemblyman.
“The state government is seen as defending the people’s rights. We are pouring our hopes into the people and we are confident with our administrative track record.”
Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayob said the people would continue to entrust the state’s leadership to PH as many held “negative sentiments” towards the government because of the rise in the cost of living.
“(If early polls) were called two years ago, that would mean that we are sending a message to the people.
“But to do it now, with the general election just a few months away, we might send a confused message to the people.
“Nevertheless, we see the support for PH rising and Umno declining. We have the advantage in maintaining victory in Selangor,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
Last October, the Selangor government filed a legal challenge to nullify the EC’s notice of delineation, claiming it violated the federal constitution in drawing up new electoral boundaries.
Selangor also sought a declaration that the EC had violated constitutional provisions on the delimitation of electoral constituencies, leading to a malapportioned number of voters in seats.
The state government also cited the EC’s failure to use the latest electoral roll in its re-delineation exercise, adding that the roll it had relied on was incomplete and inaccurate and would affect 136,272 voters in Selangor.
Last week, however, the Shah Alam High Court struck out the Selangor government’s application to postpone its scheduled appearance at a local inquiry on the re-delineation exercise.