AS Pakatan Harapan (PH) readies itself for three-cornered fights in the coming general election, its component parties in Penang have to decide which party gets which seats in the state that will almost surely be retained by the opposition coalition.
While older parties DAP and PKR are expected to maintain status quo – taking the same parliamentary and state seats they contested and won in the 13th general election, the remaining seats will largely be left for Bersatu and Amanah.
Penang PH deputy chairman and state Bersatu chief Marzuki Yahya said Penang PH had its first meeting on August 25 to discuss the allocations of the state’s 40 state and 13 parliamentary seats.
The August 25 meeting at state level saw Bersatu requesting to contest all seats now held by BN’s lynchpin party Umno – meaning it wanted to take over all seats previously contested but lost by PKR and PAS.
These include the Balik Pulau federal seat and its three state seats – Bayan Lepas, Teluk Bahang and Pulau Betong – which PKR narrowly lost in the 2013 polls with slim majorities of between 395 and 801.
“Yes, we put in the request for Balik Pulau and all other seats held by Umno,” Marzuki told The Malaysian Insight.
At the federal level, PH today announced that it has resolved negotiations for 100 parliamentary seats in the 14th general election. PH chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah, however, said he could not announce the seats yet.
Umno holds the Kepala Batas, Tasek Gelugor and Balik Pulau parliamentary seats. Except for Kepala Batas, which was retained by Umno with a 4,000-plus majority in 2013, Balik Pulau and Tasek Gelugor were won with over 1,500 and 1,600 majorities respectively.
Umno also holds nine state seats, all located in the three parliamentary constituencies, with majorities ranging from 357 to over 1,600 votes.
Umno also won the Sungai Acheh state seat in PKR-held Nibong Tebal, which saw a three-cornered fight in 2013 after PKR and PAS each fielded a candidate. Umno’s Mahmud Zakaria won by a 808 majority while the PAS candidate, Yusni Mat Piah lost his deposit.
PKR contested 15 state seats but lost four to Umno in the last polls. Meanwhile, PAS contested for the Kepala Batas and Tasek Gelugor parliamentary seats and eight state seats, losing all to Umno except the Permatang Pasir state seat in opposition stronghold Permatang Pauh.
Marzuki said it would be status quo for all seats won by DAP and PKR in the last polls, and Amanah would likely take on the PAS seats.
DAP keeps all six parliamentary constituencies – Bagan, Bukit Mertajam, Bukit Bendera, Tanjong, Jelutong and Bukit Gelugor – which it won in the 12th and 13th general elections. It will also keep the 19 state seats it contested and won in the last polls.
PKR keeps the Permatang Pauh, Nibong Tebal and Bayan Baru parliamentary seats and 11 state seats it won in the last polls.
However, a Penang PKR source said there was a suggestion in a recent state party political bureau meeting that PKR would like to contest Permatang Pasir as well, in addition to Seberang Jaya and Penanti. All three are under the Permatang Pauh federal seat.
“Nothing is final yet. We are still discussing the seats, namely those that were contested by Pakatan (Rakyat) and lost in the last polls, to decide which PH component party gets them.
“I think we can expect a decision by the end of this month,” Marzuki said.
Balik Pulau PKR division chief Abdul Halim Hussain said his party would contest in Balik Pulau again, since the party almost won the parliamentary seat and the three state seats under it in 2013.
“We will justify to the state PH leadership why PKR should be given the chance to try again in Balik Pulau in the coming polls. We won the parliamentary seat in 2008.
“Bersatu is a new party. It wants all the 10 Umno-held state seats but it may not get them all. Amanah also would want some seats previously contested by PAS,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
Halim, who was formerly Penang state legislative assembly speaker, said there were also factors like candidates and the election machinery to consider.
PKR managed to take Balik Pulau in the 2008 polls when Yusmadi Yusoff beat BN’s Norraesah Mohamad by a 708 vote majority.
The party then lost the seat in 2013 to BN’s Dr Hilmi Yahaya, a former local doctor who is now the deputy health minister, by a 1,539 vote majority.
Yusmadi, a lawyer and Balik Pulau local with law offices in Selangor and Penang, was not fielded in 2013, but has recently expressed his interest to be fielded in the coming polls to take back the seat for PKR.
Bersatu was officially established in September last year. It is helmed by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is also PH chairman, and former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.