Pakatan would risk Selangor, N. Sembilan with asynchronous polls, observers warn

(MMO) – Pakatan Harapan’s plan to resist dissolving the assemblies of the states under its control now could leave it vulnerable to losing Negri Sembilan and Selangor next year, according to political analysts.

The coalition could even see its control of Penang — currently a stronghold — erode if it were to have the state elections separately from the 15th general election set to be held next month, they cautioned.

They said the Opposition coalition would have an equal fight against the Barisan Nasional (BN) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) election machinery in GE15, but not so if the state elections were only held next year.

“It was proven previously that when state elections were held, PH lost,” said Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) Associate Professor Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani. “So, they need to be very careful and calculative in seeing their chances to win.

“It will be a tough fight to retain Negri Sembilan,” he said.

Mohd Azizuddin explained that PH would need high voter turnouts to defend the states successfully, but this would typically be low for standalone state elections.

The PH presidential council previously decided that the three states still under the coalition’s control should not dissolve their state assemblies if GE15 were to coincide with the year-end monsoon season when floods were likely.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob acknowledged this when he announced the dissolution of Parliament yesterday, but urged the states to still follow suit so as not to burden the public or incur additional costs.

Senior Fellow of Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun warned that the new federal government, which could be a more powerful Umno, could “train all their guns” on Penang during the state poll if it were held separately.

He said PKR may see reduced majority in the state polls while Amanah will be “cannibalised” by both Umno and PAS.

“What matters in this country is ultimately the conservative Malays, and for them, fall back is always Umno, then PAS, then perhaps other Malay parties, but never PH parties,” he said.

However, Oh conceded that if PH were to also hold the state polls during GE15, its resources would also have to be spread thin.

“So, no win for them either way,” he said.

Universiti Malaysia socioeconomic analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi said Penang would remain as a PH stronghold regardless of when the state poll were to be called, noting that the coalition currently holds all but seven seats in the assembly.

He also believed that while an undistracted BN would be able to bring all its might to bear on the state, it would only be likely to claw back some of the ground lost since 2008.

However, he said the situation in Selangor and Negri Sembilan would be different.

“PH might lose those two states if they don’t hold the state polls during GE15,” he said.

Ismail Sabri announced the dissolution of Parliament yesterday, ending the speculation of when GE15 would be held.

Rivals including PH continue to criticise Ismail Sabri and the ruling BN for triggering GE15 now as it would likely coincide with the floods that typically accompany the year-end monsoon period.

Last year, Malaysia suffered one of its worst floods on record, causing an estimated RM6.5 billion in property damage and displacing over 71,000 people.

The floods were particularly severe in Selangor, the country’s most industrialised state, where nearly half of the 54 flood-related deaths occurred.