PKR’s chances in Sungai Bakap rest on voter turnout, says analyst

Hisommudin Bakar says PKR can reclaim the seat it lost to PAS by 1,563 votes last year if voter turnout hovers between 60% and 65%.

(FMT) – A political analyst says voter turnout will determine whether PKR can reclaim the Sungai Bakap seat from PAS in the upcoming by-election.

Ilham Centre’s Hisommudin Bakar said PAS won the seat in the last state election due to the high voter turnout and a surge in Malay-Islam sentiment.

“The voter turnout was 76%, with the surge in Malay-Islam sentiment being a significant factor that led to Perikatan Nasional candidate Nor Zamri Latiff winning against Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate Nurhidayah Che Rose by a majority of 1,563 votes,” he told FMT.

“However, looking at trends from previous elections, voter turnout typically ranged between 60% and 65%, indicating close competition, and giving PH a chance to reclaim the seat,” he said.

Recent by-elections saw voter turnout at 61% in Kuala Kubu Baharu, Selangor, 65% in Kemaman, Terengganu, and 48% in Jepak, Sarawak.

Hisommudin said Umno can help PH recapture Malay support despite a loss of influence among Malay voters. He said PH can rely on a cohort of “die-hard” Umno-Barisan Nasional members who will back any decision made by the party.

Meanwhile, Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia suggested that the swing of Malay votes to PH in the recent Kuala Kubu Baharu by-election may have an influence on Sungai Bakap voters.

“If we consider the results in Kuala Kubu Baharu, there appears to be a slight shift with a noticeable swing of Malay votes towards PH. There are signs that PKR might be able to recapture this seat,” he said.

During the Kuala Kubu Baharu by-election, PH candidate Pang Sock Tao won by a majority of 3,869 votes.

At the time, Umno secretary-general Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said PH had recaptured six of eight Malay-majority electoral districts in the constituency which Perikatan Nasional had won in last year’s state election.

Hisommudin and Mazlan both agreed that Umno made the right decision by letting PKR contest in Sungai Bakap given the latter’s stronger presence in the constituency.

Mazlan pointed out that BN had lost to PH in both the 2008 and 2013 general elections, and during a three-cornered fight in 2018.

Despite losing in the previous election, PKR still received the second-highest number of votes overall, he added.

The Sungai Bakap seat fell vacant following Zamri’s death on May 24.

Zamri, then the Nibong Tebal PAS chief, had won the seat in the state election last August, defeating PH’s Nurhidayah by a 1,563-vote majority after securing 15,433 votes.