HISTORY says that opposition parties will never beat Barisan Nasional in three-cornered fights in a general election.
But Amanah president Mohamad Sabu disagrees, saying that the 14th general election will buck that trend and will see even the fall of Johor, the birthplace of BN lynchpin party Umno.
The reason? The Malay Muslim political mindset has changed and the two political parties which dominated the community, Umno and PAS, are no longer as strong as they once were, said the veteran opposition figure, popularly known as Mat Sabu.
His argument echoes a survey by Invoke Malaysia, which showed that Malay support for Pakatan Harapan and BN is almost even.
Mat Sabu said the shift in the Malay-Muslim mindset has occurred mainly because cost-of-living issues which have strained their budgets and inadequate federal government handouts.
“Malays are being squeezed like never before and this has changed the perception that Umno can take care of them,” Mat Sabu told The Malaysian Insight.
“And we believe that our arguments on mismanagement of the country and corruption have helped this shift in mindset.”
The pain felt by working-class and middle-class Muslims, he said, has sapped support for Umno, even in its traditional rural bastions of Johor and Pahang.
In fact, he is confident that Johor, even more than Kedah or Kelantan, will fall to PH in GE14 because of this swing of Malay support away from Umno.
“For example, when I visit Johor during our rallies, I can see that almost 60% of the crowd are former BN supporters. They are not our usual supporters.”
At the same time, PAS’ wavering stance when it comes to Umno and PH has alienated its members and supporters, he said.
“PAS does not have a firm stand. It says it does not want to change the government. If you vote for PAS, you can’t change the government. And changing the government is crucial to putting the country back on track.”
PAS the biggest loser
Amanah is part of PH, which comprises of multiracial parties PKR and DAP, and Bumiputera-centric party Bersatu.
PH is expected to face both the BN and PAS’ coalition Gagasan Rakyat Sejahtera in GE14. PAS has announced that it wants to contest at least 100 parliamentary seats and state seats in almost all states in the peninsula.
Previous election results have shown that whenever more than one opposition party takes on BN, the ruling regime ends up the victor as votes for the opposition are split.
This occurred in the 13th general election in state seats in Selangor and Penang when PAS candidates contested against those from BN and PH’s predecessor Pakatan Rakyat.
BN won two state seats, Semenyih and Kota Damansara with less than half of all votes cast. The opposition parties’ combined vote was more than that of the BN candidates.
The assumption that opposition parties always lose in a three-cornered fight is based on the premise that all three – BN, PAS and PH – are equally strong, said Mat Sabu.
Currently, in the west coast seats, Umno is only able to get about 30% of all Malay Muslim votes in any given area.
Mat Sabu said PAS support is even lower than that of Umno’s among Malay Muslims.
“So when the Malay vote is split, the party that wins is usually the one that can get solid non-Muslim support.
“And that segment is with PH,” he said, adding that in most west coast seats, non-Muslim voters make up more than 20% of the total.
“Our research has shown that PAS can only get 1% non-Malay support. Between us and BN, we can get 80% of the non-Muslim vote. So, if the Malay votes are split, the party which has majority non-Muslim support will carry the day.”
Even if the BN administration is able to pass its contentious electoral re-delineation plan, he is confident PH will still do well.
Critics claimed that the re-delineation plan reorganises electoral constituencies to make them more ethnically homogenous. If passed in Parliament, there will be more seats with Malay and non-Malay vote populations of more than 80%, with far fewer mixed seats.
PH claims that this plan is to benefit BN as it has little support from non-Malays.
“When there is a shift in Malay support, BN will still do badly in Malay majority seats because as I have said, Malays have changed their view of Umno.”