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More 3-cornered fights in GE15 likely, analysts say

THERE will be more three-cornered fights in Peninsular Malaysia in the 15th general election if Umno maintains its decision to stay independent from the Perikatan Nasional (PN) pact, said analysts.

“Bersatu and PAS will work together in PN as Umno cannot share seats with PAS in the east coast,” said Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Dr Mazlan Ali.

Mazlan, who studies voter behaviour in the east coast, said PAS and Bersatu will even brand their parties as a Malay-Muslim unity pact to attract Malay voters.

Ilham Centre executive director Hisommudin Bakar also expects three-cornered fights in most of the 165 parliamentary constituencies in the peninsula.

Mazlan and Hisommudin were commenting on Umno’s decision to reject working with PN in GE15 after its Supreme Council meeting last Friday.

Party sources told media groups it had also rejected Bersatu’s offer of a deputy prime minister’s post.

Umno had met at its training centre in Janda Baik in Pahang following Bersatu’s ultimatum to the party recently.

Various sources told The Malaysian Insight Bersatu wanted Umno to decide whether it was with PN ahead of GE15.

When the same move burned BN

In GE14, Barisan Nasional (BN) lost federal power to Pakatan Harapan (PH) for the first time in 61 years after its three-cornered strategy backfired, with PAS spoiling 24 seats for BN directly.

As such, would BN face the same fate if it allowed three-cornered fights in GE15?

“Not necessarily,” said Mazlan.

“In Malay belt states such as Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, Umno and PAS will still dominate seats with more than 65% Malay voters. As for the 50% to 65% Malay seats, PH will have its opportunities if PN and BN split the Malay votes.

“After GE14, BN and Umno will try to work out ‘strategies’ with PH to avoid clashing with each other in selected seats,” said Mazlan.

He said there are more incentives for Umno to compromise with PH in GE15 than PN, as the latter appears to be undermining the party.

Analysts doubt a high voter turnout, such as the one seen during GE14, will happen in GE15, unless there is a surge of issues and sentiments against the government in the run-up to the election. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, February 22, 2021.
Analysts doubt a high voter turnout, such as the one seen during GE14, will happen in GE15, unless there is a surge of issues and sentiments against the government in the run-up to the election. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, February 22, 2021.

On the other hand, Hisommudin said GE15 is a completely new ball game.

“Ilham hasn’t been able to check recent sentiments due to Covid-19 restrictions but there are four indicators to look out for in the next polls.

“The first is voter turnout, followed by voter sentiment, the number of new voters and the candidates,” said Hisommudin.

He said PH benefitted from the high voter turnout in GE14, particularly among the Chinese, which was as high as 90%.

“But will the turnout be high again in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic? We highly doubt it will be, unless there is a surge of issues and sentiments against the government in the run-up to the election.”

On the additional new voters, Hisommudin said 40% to 42% of the electorate in GE15 are expected to be between 21 and 39 years’ old.

“They are also the ones most affected by unemployment, unfair wages and high cost of living. As they are also huge followers of social media, they are the most fragile voter group and likely to impact the election.

“More importantly, there are still many loose ends among the political coalitions, and the picture will only be clearer after they announce their plans,” said the pollster.

But one thing that is certain for Mazlan and Hisommudin, is that PAS and Bersatu will now turn the tables on Umno and brand it traitors of Muslim unity if Umno maintains its position to stay out of PN in GE15.

Out of 130 Malay-majority seats in the peninsula, Umno has 37, while Bersatu and PAS have 16 and 18 respectively.

THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT

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