Mainly overconfident declarations

Philip Golingai, The Star

“WE are confident of getting 112 seats in Parliament,” Pakatan Harapan chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was stumping for PKR candidates in Sabah, drummed across to the crowd on his campaign trail in Sepanggar on Saturday night.

“And we need Sepanggar to deliver a seat to Pakatan,” said the PKR president, standing on a table and pointing to Mustapha Sakmud, the PKR candidate for the constituency adjacent to Kota Kinabalu.

Earlier that day, Barisan Nasional communications director Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek projected that his coalition would win at least 112 seats, the minimum required for a party or coalition to form the next Federal Government.

That same day, Perikatan Nasional elections director Datuk Seri Azmin Ali said his coalition was also confident of getting a minimum of 112 seats.

Barisan consists of Umno, MCA, MIC and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah; Perikatan comprises Bersatu, PAS, Gerakan, Sabah STAR and SAPP; while Pakatan is made up of PKR, DAP, Amanah and Upko.

Halfway through the GE15 campaign period, the three main coalitions have all confidently declared they can hit the magic number of 112 out of the 222 parliamentary seats up for grabs.

But almost all pollsters and political analysts doubt that a single coalition can reach this magic number on its own. For them, it will be a hung Parliament, leading to several coalitions and parties converging to form the next government.

Ilham Centre executive director Hisommudin Bakar said from its survey, no coalition could form the Federal Government on its own.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia political analyst Dr Mazlan Ali concurred, saying that the most a single coalition could land was 80-plus seats.

At this point in time, Hisommudin noted that the mood among voters was “sangat sejuk” (very cold), compared with GE14 in 2018.

“There is no aggressive campaign. And people are going about their daily routines as if there is no election. Overall, it is not as festive as before, especially in the war of flags. We only see flags in public areas, whereas in GE14, they were displayed even inside house compounds,” he added.

Hisommudin said the fight was being conducted more on social media, and not so much out in the public domain.

Mazlan, too, observed that the mood in GE15 was different from GE14.

“In 2018, the momentum was about change that people wanted. There is still that mood now, but not as strong as before,” he said.

He explained that the campaign intensity might have been “diluted” with too many coalitions and parties in the fray.

“In GE14, it was mainly a straight fight between Barisan and Pakatan. Now there are four major coalitions that are in the contest,” he said, with the fourth being Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

The Ilham analyst felt that Umno was lagging in all aspects of the campaign on social media and on the ground.

“The feedback is that Umno supporters are worried as the support is not as strong as expected. Supposedly, this election belongs to Umno as it was behind the dissolution of Parliament and it should have been better prepared for GE15,” he said.

Hisommudin believes that Umno’s lacklustre performance halfway through campaigning was due to its selection of candidates.

“It is fielding about 80% new faces. The party machinery and grassroots are not happy that incumbents were not selected. Umno will need to settle this matter over the next few days,” he said.

Mazlan also observed that the Umno machinery was “slow”.

“It might be because of the crisis between (Umno president) Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the Umno leaders who were not fielded, and this is affecting its campaign,” he said.

Hisommudin said in Peninsular Malaysia, Perikatan campaigning was better both in cyberspace and on the ground.

“Perikatan is good in TikTok and has also bought media space in newspapers,” he said.

Mazlan predicts that Perikatan will gain ground in Kedah and Perlis.“When Umno has internal problems up north, that will be an advantage to Perikatan,” he said.

Mazlan said Pakatan has been solid with its campaigning to attract voters.

On Sarawak, both analysts agreed that GPS was solid and should dominate in the 31 parliamentary seats.

However, they said it was too early to forecast how many seats the various coalitions and parties would win.

“I’ve not crunched the numbers. We have to factor in the latest information we’re getting. For example, in the last two days, Perikatan’s campaign in Perlis and Pahang has been aggressive,” Mazlan said.

He added that it would also depend on voter turnout.

“If it is low, it will benefit Barisan, and if it is high, Perikatan will hold the advantage,” he said.

Mazlan also said new voters would significantly affect the GE15 result if they come out in droves.

There are five more days to polling, and the two analysts cautioned that the forecast midway to GE15 might change.

The result on the night of Nov 19 hinges very much on what happens in the next few days.