PAS-Perikatan ticket for Melaka polls will be to BN’s detriment, say analysts

(MMO) – The Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition will find it more challenging to win now that PAS has decided to contest the Melaka state election under the Perikatan Nasional (PN) banner, according to political analysts.

For Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) geostrategist Prof Azmi Hassan, PAS’ influence in the state might not be formidable, yet it has enough support to influence the outcome of the state election.

The main reason, he added, is that Umno holds some seats with fewer than a 1,000-vote majority due to the three-way fights with PAS in the previous general election.

PAS joining forces with PN for the November 20 polls would therefore severely hamper BN’s chances to form a state government in Melaka, he said.

“It will be difficult for Umno and Barisan Nasional to win a comfortable majority or form a government. This is because six state seats contested in GE14 were won by less than 1,000-vote majorities, especially Asahan and Merlimau, which were won by Umno with fewer than 300 votes.

“So for each seat that it contests, PAS would probably garner between 900 and 1,000 votes. This could determine whether BN will retain the 13 seats that it won during GE14.

“Based on GE14 results, PAS does not have a strong standing in Melaka. The best it could get is around 1,500 votes but, as I have said, with six seats by Umno and one seat by Amanah and one seat by DAP, the majority is less than 1,000.

“So if you add the few hundred supporters who support PAS, and in turn, will support Perikatan Nasional candidates in this case, I think it gives PAS some clout to sway the results,” he said.

In GE14, Umno’s Roslan Ahmad (5,290) won the Merlimau seat with a majority of 130 votes in a three-cornered fight with Amanah’s Yuhaiza Abdullah (5,160) and PAS’ Abdul Malek Yusof (1,208).

As for Asahan, Umno’s Abdul Ghafar Atan (5,942) won with a majority of 275 votes in a three-cornered fight with Bersatu’s Zamzuri Arifin (5,667) and PAS’ Azlan Maddin (1,365).

Other Umno seats that were secured with less than a 1,000-vote majority were Lendu, Taboh Naning, Pantai Kundor and Rim.

However, some Pakatan Harapan (PH) seats are also vulnerable to PAS’ influence, such as Kelebang where its incumbent, PKR’s Gue Teck had a majority of 789 votes against MCA’s Lim Ban Hong and PAS’ Shafiq Ismail.

The same goes for the Durian Tunggal seat, which Amanah’s Mohd Sofi Abdul Wahab won with a 763-vote majority against Umno’s Ab Wahab Ab Latip and PAS’ Mohsin Ibrahim.

DAP is also not spared; for example, the Gadek state seat saw incumbent Saminathan Genesan winning with a 307-vote lead against MIC’s Panirchelvam Pichamuthu and PAS’ Emransyah Ismail.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said the PAS-PN tussle with Umno is likely to divide Malay voters but will ultimately benefit PH outright.

“Umno will get its fair share of votes, but with Malay votes split between BN and PN, PH stands a very good chance of being catapulted to a front-running position in the race to helm Melaka.

“If anything is going to undo PH’s bid, it will be internal wrangling among component parties, such as between DAP and PKR on the issue of accepting the four reneging assemblymen,” said Ahmad Fauzi, referring to the four state representatives who pulled their support for the Umno-led Melaka state administration, thereby triggering the upcoming polls.

However, Ahmad Fauzi further explained that PAS’ insistence on cooperating with PN is to help boost the Islamist party’s position as a credible national-level party.

“PAS is positioning itself as a national party instead of a regional one, as it always has been seen to be, with its strength concentrated in the Malay belt of north-eastern and northern peninsula Malaysia.

“Having helmed the federal government from March 2020 to August 2021, and now in a supporting capacity to an Umno prime minister widely regarded as sympathetic to PN, PAS displays an ostensibly national image.

“This is an image that PAS seeks to cultivate as it tries to expand its influence beyond its traditional rural Malay strongholds.

“But I suspect this will be a serious misstep, based on PN’s weak grassroots hold in Melaka. In such a case, PN will benefit from PAS’ organisational capacity among the lower strata of Malay society,” he said.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun also concurred with Ahmad Fauzi’s assessment that PAS’ preference for PN boils down to the fact that the latter is more amenable compared to Umno under the Muafakat Nasional (MN) banner.

“PAS perceives Bersatu as more amenable to its theocratic agenda in the long run. It also wants to check and balance Umno hegemony in the Malay-Muslim agenda as well as dominance in Malay-Muslim constituencies,” he said.

In terms of the Melaka state polls, Oh said PAS’ presence in three-cornered fights is damaging to Umno and it would be better for all three Malay-based parties involved to present a united front.

“PAS is unlikely to win seats outright on its own, but could potentially divert votes from Umno if it were to come out as a third candidate. As such, Umno would have to defer to PAS in closely contested constituencies where the majorities of either Umno or PH would be small.

“From the experience of the Sabah state election last year, I frankly think there are still a few days left for Umno, PAS and Bersatu to iron out their differences and present a united front on Nomination Day,” he said.

The Election Commission (EC) has set Nomination Day for November 8. Polling will take place on November 20.

The Melaka State Legislative Assembly, which consists of 28 seats, was dissolved on October 4 after four representatives withdrew their support for the leadership of former chief minister Datuk Seri Sulaiman Md Ali.