Malacca polls a test for Anwar’s leadership, to set tone for GE15

THE Malacca elections will set the stage for Pakatan Harapan (PH) for the 15th general election and will also be a test to see if opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim can steer the coalition to victory, political observers and lawmakers said.

They said if PH, with Anwar at the helm, could once again win the state as it did in GE14 under the leadership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, it would strengthen his position as an undisputed leader and the coalition going into GE15.

Others, however, said the dissenting voices in PH who are unhappy with several of Anwar’s decisions showed there may be cracks forming in the opposition.

The state elections, being held against the backdrop of the Covid-19 epidemic, will also challenge how Anwar will lead the campaigning as conventional methods are no longer the norm.

“PH’s performance in Malacca will reflect how it will perform in GE15. If the results are worse than GE14, it shows that Anwar’s influence may be dissipating,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

“If PH wins, then support for Anwar will be better and he can then focus on preparing for GE15.”

Mazlan said if Anwar failed to secure the state for PH, he would also run the risk of being compared to Dr Mahathir, who made a comeback in GE14 after joining forces with the opposition.

Malacca will go to the polls on November 20. Campaigning is now underway with strict Covid-19 standard operating procedure (SOP) in place.

This is the first time an election is being held after eight months of a nationwide state of emergency to fight Covid-19.

In GE14, PH won 15 seats in Malacca while Barisan Nasional (BN) won 13.

The PH state government, however, collapsed after DAP’s Pengkalan Batu representative Norhizam Hassan Baktee and PKR’s Rembia assemblyman Muhammad Jailani Khamis defected.

Baktee was also one of the four assemblymen who caused the Malacca state government to collapse after pulling support for chief minister Sulaiman Md Ali.

The other three were former chief minister Idris Haron, Noor Effandi Ahmad and Nor Azman Hassan.

Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, also agreed with Mazlan that Malacca would test Anwar’s leadership capabilities.

“Malacca is a test if he can score well. It’s a question of whether or not PH can form a state government with Anwar leading.

“It is a tall order for Anwar, for him to consolidate his (position) as an undisputed leader of the opposition. If he wins Malacca for PH, then he will prove that he is a force to be reckoned with come GE15,” Oh said.

Ilham Centre’s executive director Hisommudin Bakar added that while Malacca would test Anwar, the run up to the state nominations showed his position as leader is still not strong.

“This is the biggest test Anwar will face in recreating PH’s victory over BN in GE14.

“However, for the time being, it doesn’t look like Anwar is leading PH convincingly. Just look at the announcement for the Malacca candidates. It was not done simultaneously,” he said.

Last Friday, DAP announced it would retain six candidates while introducing two new faces in the polls.

The following day, PKR and Amanah announced its line-up of candidates in the state, which included two former assemblymen, Idris and Nor Azman, who were responsible for the collapse of the state government.

DAP was not in attendance during the announcements. DAP has been PH’s biggest critic in its decision to accept the two party-hoppers as candidates.

Anwar, however, said the two could not be considered “political frogs” and that the issue of party-hopping does not arise as they were accepted into the parties only after the state assembly was dissolved.

Both men did not defect to other parties, but withdrew support for the chief minister, he added.

“Anwar failed to convince DAP and this showed that there were disagreements between the party, PKR and Amanah.

“Secondly, PH has not revealed who will be their chief minister if it wins.

“DAP has pushed for Adly Zahari to be named as the chief minister candidate but Anwar has not made any final decision on this to quell speculation there may be other candidates.

“Thirdly, PH has also not raised any of the issues that had been brought forward by the voters in Malacca. Before this they were vocal about highlighting national and local issues but, this time around, they have not championed any of the issues that may help them win votes in Malacca.”

PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil says the Malacca polls would test Anwar Ibrahim’s strategies. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 9, 2021.
PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil says the Malacca polls would test Anwar Ibrahim’s strategies. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 9, 2021.

Adapting to new norms

PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil said Malacca will test Anwar in terms of him coming up with the right strategies.

He, however, warned PH must be careful as there are a lot of variables going into the state elections.

“It is not a campaign we are familiar with; we have to be careful. There are a lot of variables that may not be under our control.

“Between now and November 20, we don’t know epidemiologically what this will mean for the elections or the results. If only less than 50% turn out (to vote), then how do you justify that you have a mandate?” the Lembah Pantai MP asked.

He added that this is also the first time that new campaigning methods are being deployed and how the people respond to them is left to be seen.

“It would be terrible to win the elections but lose the war to Covid-19. In a lot of our meetings, this is something that he (Anwar) has reiterated, constantly reminding us about the value of life and (that) we should not jeopardise public safety.”

Klang MP Charles Santiago also concurred with Fahmi that the campaigning strategy will determine how each party performs, not just Anwar and PH.

“This is a social media election that will favour rural areas. It’s going to be lopsided in terms of outcome.”

In terms of Anwar’s leadership, Santiago said it would come down to how PH performs in the state.

“If the party performs but the leader is lousy, he will get all the accolades.”

The DAP lawmaker said the challenge to PH and Anwar now is to put forth viable and workable alternatives for Malacca voters who have been severely impacted by Covid-19.

“We are still in the midst of the pandemic and we are still looking at recovery. We are looking at people who do not have jobs with sufficient income and businesses that have closed.

“The challenge would be for the party to put forward a viable and workable alternative for these people.

“BN has put forth their ideas, PH has some ideas and we have to sell it to the people.”

Commenting on Anwar’s decision to accept the two former Umno lawmakers, Santiago stood by his party’s decision they should not have been accepted at all.

“They have done a number on their own party and crossed over for their personal interest.

“These are signs that there are differences and the differences sometimes are striking and glaring, and they will have an impact in the long run. It does compromise Anwar’s position.”

Yesterday, the Election Commission (EC) announced that the only form of physical campaigning allowed in the Malacca elections is the use of loudspeakers from vehicles at fixed times and with a police permit.

The EC said the SOP, which was approved by the Health Ministry, bans any form of public physical gathering.

This means there can be no ceramah, no door-to-door visits by candidates nor supporters to canvas for votes and no walkabout activities.

Candidates who violate these rules would be subject to the Elections Offences Act 1954, it added.

Other SOP for the Malacca polls stipulates that candidates and their parties are only allowed to open one operations room per seat.

Smaller operations centres or gathering points for parties’ election machinery are not allowed. TMI

Pakatan to table anti-party hopping bill if it wins Malacca

He said this is the first thing that he will propose if the coalition wins Malacca.

“If I am elected assemblyman, the first thing I will propose is to immediately draft an anti-party hopping enactment,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

“If we (PH) take the government on November 20, the state assembly session will start a month later, and after that, the state budget. We can propose this enactment and approve it early next year.

Shamsul was referring to the MOU on Transformation and Political Stability signed between PH and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on September 13, which lists, among others, the enactment of an anti-party hopping legislation in Parliament.

The Hang Tuah Jaya MP will contest the Paya Rumput seat in the upcoming Malacca elections.

Shamsul said the bill will avoid a prolonged political crisis and also guarantee the stability of the new Malacca government.

“When (the anti-party hopping bill) is passed at the federal level, it will guarantee the stability of the government for the next five years.

“I believe that this is a practical and reasonable thing, and can be worked on at the state level.”

Therefore, voters should give PH the mandate to re-establish the state government, he added.

“I appeal to the voters to give us a comfortable mandate. If you are confident with PH, do not waste your vote.

“They (voters) can feel it when comparing PH’s 22-month administration in Malacca with Umno’s 19-month administration led by Sulaiman,” he said, referring to former chief minister Sulaiman Md Ali.

Shamsul said voters are also able to see the stability displayed by PH when running the state government, compared with when Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional led – both coalitions currently in the federal government.

“Do not waste your votes… we guarantee that PH is committed to the reform agenda and the changes it wants to make. We do not want to do things that will destroy the future and our fight.

“Give us that mandate… if we score a comfortable win – 17 or 18 seats – we can survive the next five years. We want a stable government that delivers to the people and to ensure there are no party-hopping.”

The Malacca assembly was dissolved after four assemblymen withdrew their support for Sulaiman, namely Idris Haron (Sg Udang), Nor Azman Hassan (Pantai Kundor), Norhizam Hassan Baktee (Pengkalan Batu) and Noor Effandi Ahmad (Telok Mas).

Idris, who is also a former Malacca chief minister, and Nor Azman will be contesting under the PH ticket in the state elections.

Malacca has a total of 28 state seats.