Why PKR is cold on Penang snap polls


(MMO) – An early election in Penang may seem like little risk to Pakatan Harapan parties given how DAP and, to some extent, PKR have enjoyed tremendous public support there since Election 2008.

But PKR’s reluctance on DAP’s plan is not without merit as many party leaders said a statewide election now will result in former ally PAS contesting as a rival, especially in seats currently held by PKR.

PKR officials believe that this will result in three-cornered fights, which could jeopardise the seats the party currently has in the state assembly. Multiway fights in the Sarawak election had already shown the danger to the opposition when their support is divided.

“That is an issue which we are facing. It is quite obvious that it is a given (PAS contesting in PKR, DAP seats if snap polls called) and PKR’s seats especially might be affected.

“At the end of the day we do not want to be giving Umno any dominance, and also we would like to keep our seats,” a high-ranking PKR leader told Malay Mail Online.

The fear was confirmed yesterday when PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said his party would contest every seat in Penang if the snap poll is held, a threat he previously made during hostilities with DAP over hudud.

The PKR source also expressed concern that the early election might affect the ceasefire talks among opposition parties, and hurt the chances of forming an electoral pact for the 14th general election with PAS.

“It (snap polls) could derail the focus if our priorities are skewed, what we choose to do. Our focus must be directing our combined forces against the Barisan Nasional (BN) and uniting all opposition parties,” the source added.

PKR vice-president Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin said his party was not persuaded on the need for snap polls in Penang, and stressed that a decision on the matter must come from all three Pakatan Harapan parties.

PKR co-elections director and vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar said that three-cornered fights have not benefited Pakatan Harapan, as further demonstrated by the pact’s recent performance in the Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar by-elections.

“Three-cornered fights only ends up with Umno winning the seats,” she told Malay Mail Online.

A DAP leader familiar with the on-going discussions between his party and PKR regarding the Penang snap election said the latter is worried that the exercise would be at its expense.

While DAP and PAS supporters share little in common, there are clear overlaps in the demographics of those who back PKR and the Islamist party, with each party likely to cannibalise the other’s support.

“They are afraid they will lose some seats because of PAS coming in. PKR’s concern is there will be three- cornered fight and it will affect their chances at retaining their current seats, but they will have to face it sooner or later.

“There is a definitely a risk involved,” he told Malay Mail Online.

DAP has argued that an early election in Penang now is Pakatan Harapan’s best opportunity to secure a fresh, five-year mandate while Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is still able to lead the campaign.

The next general election is — at most — just two years away, based on when the 13th Parliament first convened.

Lim has denied that the exercise was meant as a public demonstration of support for him amid his two corruption charges, insisting there is a need to return the mandate to the people in light of recent abuses of power that had affected the people and the economy.

He was charged with abuse of power and corruption at the Penang High Court last month over the alleged approval of a rezoning application by Magnificent Emblem to convert agricultural land to residential and over his purchase of his RM2.8 million house from businesswoman Phang Li Koon at below market value of RM4.27 million.

There were calls for Lim to step down as chief minister or to take leave pending his court cases but DAP and Pakatan had voiced its full support for Lim to remain as chief minister, labelling the charges as a political move to end Lim’s political career.

There are 40 state seats in Penang, 19 are held by DAP, 10 by PKR, 1 by PAS and the remaining 10 by Barisan Nasional (BN)