Barisan Nasional (BN) has won big in the Melaka state election, grabbing 21 seats from a total 28. Effectively, the coalition is back – stronger with two-thirds majority. It also means the coalition has managed to win back all the 8 seats that it lost in the 2018 General Election, which led to the loss of the state government for the first time in history to the Opposition Pakatan Harapan.
Perikatan Nasional (PN), the fragile coalition formed by infamous traitor Muhyiddin Yassin, also suffered humiliation when it won only 2 seats out of 15 that it contested. Well, at least it won some seats, unlike PKR. However, considering that Muhyiddin was still the “Malay first” prime minister some 3 months ago, it must be painful to learn that even the Malays have rejected him.
The best news is how Hadi Awang’s party was also slaughtered, losing all the 8 seats it contested. Muhyiddin should thank Hadi’s Islamist party PAS for playing racial and religious cards, without which PN could win more votes from Chinese and Indians who wanted to teach PH a lesson. Muhyiddin’s silly plan of using Gerakan to win Chinese votes failed spectacularly, losing all 5 seats.
Since the first day Pakatan Harapan stunningly defeated Barisan Nasional in the 2018 General Election, we have been saying that it was former PM Mahathir Mohamad who had managed to swing the Malay votes for PH, allowing it to win. However, Anwar’s loyalists were not impressed. They argued that even without Mahathir, Pakatan could still win, never mind Anwar was still in the prison.
Following the collapse of Pakatan in March 2020 after Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin, together with PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, betrayed their own government when they conspired and plotted with defeated UMNO and PAS extremists to form a backdoor government, a deal was floated in June 2020 for Mahathir to lead PH and launch a counter-coup against the backdoor regime.
But Anwar refused to accept Mahathir as a prime minister again, even though the term was for Mahathir to lead for only 6 months, after which Anwar will take over. It was the best chance to strike while the iron is hot. Everyone was angry with the Muhyiddin’s “Sheraton Move”. Mr Anwar, nevertheless, was adamant that no one else – except him – can become the prime minister.
Anwar’s hardcore supporters did not realize that since the “Reformasi”, a movement started in 1998 after Anwar was sacked as deputy prime minister by Mahathir, their “idol” has failed repetitively to dislodge the invincible Barisan Nasional. It was only when Mahathir led the opposition that BN lost for the first time in 61 years since independence in 1957.
Blinded by one man’s ambition to become the prime minister, Anwar’s loyalists had even gone as far as threatening loyal allies DAP (Democratic Action Party) and Amanah (National Trust Party) that PKR would withdraw from the coalition for pushing Mahathir to lead again, believing the party under Anwar’s marvellous leadership could go solo and win the 15th General Election.
Even if it’s true that Mahathir had no plan to hand over the premiership to Anwar, would not become the deputy prime minister even for 6 months is better than nothing at all? Can’t Anwar just grab the power first and fully utilize the six months to strengthen Pakatan Harapan, or at least his own party, to correct the perception that the administration was not a total failure?
Fine, let’s get rid of the untrustworthy old fox called Mahathir. Between June 2020 and today, exactly what Anwar has done to fill the vacuum left by the old man in order to win over the heart of rural Malays? Did he not realize that Malay votes were the Holy Grail in winning a nationwide election? His simple mission was to at least maintain the 5% Malay swing votes delivered by Mahathir.
Instead of strategizing and going to the ground (or at least through social media) to market Pakatan Harapan to the Malay folks, his band of brilliant advisers had advised him to rub shoulders with then-PM Muhyiddin, Hamzah Zainuddin, Zahid Hamidi, Najib Razak and everyone except Mahathir. For months, the Opposition was rudderless as Anwar was too busy trying to overthrow Muhyiddin.
Eventually, Anwar announced on Sept 22, 2020 that he has garnered a “strong, formidable, convincing majority” of MPs to form a new government. Of course, he was being played and fooled by his own protégé, UMNO president Zahid Hamidi. Another opportunity presented itself when Zahid and Najib withdrew support for Muhyiddin, leading to the collapse of the backdoor government in August 2021.
Ismail Sabri received razor-thin support of 114 MPs in the 220-seat Parliament (two seats are vacant after their lawmakers passed away). Anwar got only 106 votes, including those from Mahathir’s camp, and the PM-in-waiting was tasked to deliver at least 5 votes to deny Sabri’s chance. Sadly, Anwar could not swing even one vote, let alone five.
Perhaps it would be easier to overthrow a state government. So when UMNO warlords fought each other for power in Melaka, which led to a state election, Anwar thought it was a jolly good idea to accept up to four rebels, including a former DAP traitor. Despite strong rejection from the grassroots, Anwar arrogantly argued that “technically” the frogs were not really frogs.
Mr Anwar lectured his own party grassroots that not only UMNO rebels like former Melaka chief minister Idris Haron was not a frog, but was a strong leader whose huge grassroots support could deliver easy victory for PKR. It’s actually quite simple – if Idris was indeed as strong as claimed, he could easily win even as independent, no? After he wins, then he can join Pakatan Harapan.
Besides, what is there to stop Idris or other frogs from hopping back to UMNO again after the election? Only after DAP expressed its displeasure that Anwar reduced the recruitment of frogs to two from initial four. Both PKR and Amanah took a frog each. And they paid the price dearly. All the four frogs lost in the Melaka state election. Amanah won only 1 seat out of 9 contested.
Let’s call a spade a spade. Under Anwar leadership, not only PKR has failed to maintain the Malay vote bank, it has lost more Malay votes to rivals UMNO and Bersatu. In 2018, Pakatan Harapan captured 51.11% votes as compared to 35.8% this time. Worse, PKR’s vote alone has plunged to 9.01% from 12.31%. In fact, Bersatu has won more votes (46,688) than PKR (28,821 votes) or Amanah (24,059 votes).
Not even disgraced attempts by PKR and Amanah to score some cheap brownie points in the “Timah Whisky” fiasco managed to win Malay votes in Melaka. PKR Rusnah Aluai said drinking the whisky was akin to “drinking Malay women” while Amanah vice-president Mujahid Yusuf Rawa proposed a policy to restrict Muslims in the manufacturing or sale of alcoholic drinks.
To teach PKR a lesson, the party’s Chinese candidates in Kelebang and Machap were butchered, losing to highly unpopular MCA, albeit majority of less than 1,000 votes. Unlike 2018 General Election where PH had benefited from three-cornered contests, the voters who despised BN have voted for PN instead in the Melaka state election.
Pakatan was so screwed up that DAP won only 4 out of 8 seats it contested in Melaka that saw its popular votes slashed to 19.26% from 24.12% (2018). It was already bad that PKR could not deliver the Malay votes. It became worse when DAP and other parties were restricted to the online campaign, unable to go to the rural areas or arrange any big scale “ceramah” (speech) that they usually do.
Many of PH supporters were also not impressed that after being played by UMNO, the leadership continued to bend over to be screwed. For example, since the coalition recklessly signed an MOU to support the incompetent Prime Minister Ismail Sabri, there has not been any major progress of reforms. On the contrary, it emboldened the regime to implement more racist, extremist and wasteful policies.
Like it or not, Anwar is incredibly toxic to the Pakatan Harapan. He should at least get younger leaders with brains like Rafizi Ramli and his own daughter Nurul Izzah back to the party and get rid of apple polishers within his current circle. One of the factors contributing to Barisan’s success was its bold move in replacing old faces. Anwar, on the other hand, took UMNO old faces and repackaged them as jewels.
As published previously, it was all about bread and butter issues in Melaka. As much as the voters disliked Barisan, they hated Perikatan more. They still remember how Muhyiddin mismanaged the economy and mishandled the Covid-19 pandemic, crippling the tourism industry in the state. Muhyiddin’s “Malay first” wasn’t enough to convince the Malays that he was a capable leader.
In the same breath, PAS Talibans’ political drama – banning alcohol and lottery tickets – has backfired on Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional. While non-Muslims were eager to teach Bersatu and PAS a lesson for bullying and interfering in their rights, the Muslims were worried a vote for the extremists could be mistaken as an invitation for Islamic extremism, destroying the local tourism industry.
At the end of the day, the people of Melaka have chosen stability, at least temporarily, rather than endless chaos created by selfish and power-hungry politicians. In reality, PAS president Hadi Awang’s despicable plan – stirring up racial and religion sentiments among the Malays – has forced some Chinese voters to go back to the corrupt Barisan Nasional.
Past history has shown that when Barisan is given a strong mandate, the coalition did not need PAS at all, meaning Islamic extremism can be avoided. And that was precisely what the Melaka voters had done. Furthermore, the people knew they can afford to vote for BN because it was just a state election. They also wanted to test if UMNO can deliver all its promises, including anti-hopping law.
A vote for BN in Melaka does not necessarily mean a guaranteed vote for BN in the federal level. There are 11 seats where BN won with a majority of less than 1,000 votes, from as few as 79 votes (Serkam) to 938 votes (Machap Jaya). If those seats swing in the 15th General Election, BN would be in trouble. Likewise, Bersatu’s two seats were won by a majority of just 530 votes (Sungai Udang) and 328 votes (Bemban).
The beauty of the results of the Melaka state election is that while it gives an impression that BN has won big, at the same time it also shows that half of its seats were quite fragile. To make it more interesting, the turnout was only 65.85%, hence the “feel good factor” may not be an accurate barometer. PAS has bet the wrong horse in PN. So, does UMNO dare to bet it will win big at the federal level too?
In a way, Pakatan should be thankful that it didn’t win or lose narrowly as either outcome would force UMNO to work together with Bersatu and PAS, uniting Malay voters into a powerful force that will definitely send Pakatan to oblivion in the next general election. Muhyiddin should be encouraged to believe that his Perikatan Nasional has actually done very well in Melaka.
More importantly, Pakatan should stop creating lame excuses for its poor results in Melaka. Blaming low voter turnout for its defeat is just a childish self-fulfilling prophecy. What if a low turnout happens again during the next general election? The fact that pariah parties like MCA and MIC have both won seats speaks volumes that voices of voters and grassroots cannot be taken for granted.
The arrogant and indecisive PKR leadership should have learned its lesson by now. For the greater good of PH, Anwar should prepare for a younger generation to take over the party’s leadership, the same way Mahathir announced his surprise resignation in 2002, passing the baton to Abdullah Badawi, who scored a significant victory in the 11th General Election in 2004.