𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗹𝗶𝗺𝗶𝘁𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗣𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗸𝗮𝘁𝗮𝗻 𝗡𝗮𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹
In the aftermath of the six state elections in Penang, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, at a glance it seems that Perikatan Nasional has gained ground at the expense of Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional.
But there is more than meets the eye. What Perikatan Nasional achieved on 12 August is as far as it can get.
𝟭. 𝗡𝗼 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗮𝗹𝗸 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝗺𝗶𝗱-𝘄𝗮𝘆 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗴𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁
It was unfortunate that the opposition PN had been questioning the legitimacy of the Unity Government despite Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s clear and solid parliamentary confidence support on 19 December 2022.
PN’s narrative up until the state elections was that if PH had lost Selangor, the collapse of the federal Unity Government would soon follow.
A 3:3 verdict last night, which was predicted by most pollsters, has put an end to any talks of a mid-way change of government to replicate the Sharaton coup.
Constant posturing of an imminent change of government won’t gain much traction anymore, apart from keeping PN hardcore supporters in ecstasy. PN will have to accept the reality that they did not win the 15th general election and thus have to serve the remaining term by presenting itself as an effective opposition, which it doesn’t seem to be capable of.
𝟮. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗹𝗶𝗺𝗶𝘁𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗺𝗼𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗠𝗮𝗹𝗮𝘆-𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗿
During the elections, PN chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin repeated his constant message that his coalition would form the Selangor government if 90% of Malay voters voted for PN. He was surprisingly frank in his view that a change of government in Selangor would only happen if almost all Malays swung to PN, due to the multiethnic nature of the state.
Most parts of Malaysia are more like Selangor than Kedah, Kelantan or Terengganu. To win federal power through a general election, the winning coalition will have to win across ethnic lines. Winning votes from one community is not enough to gain power.
Structurally, PN is handicapped. The dominant Malay coalition could only mobilise Malay anger but failed to win non-Malay support.
Ideally, the nation benefits if PN makes a serious attempt to win more than just Malay votes. Such a move would create a full-fledged two-coalition structure with both sides competing effectively for votes from all ethnicities, and therefore lowering ethnic tension caused by PN’s mobilisation of Malay anger.
If PN refuses to build a meaningful multiethnic coalition in time for the next general election, the Unity Government will likely be the default winner.
𝟯. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗼𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗠𝘂𝗵𝘆𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗶𝗻, 𝗛𝗮𝗱𝗶, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗔𝘇𝗺𝗶𝗻 𝗔𝗹𝗶
PN’s failure to win Selangor from the Unity Government means no more coup to topple the Anwar government. This also means that the political leadership of Muhyiddin and PAS President Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang will become less relevant by the day.
PN’s most effective political leaders are likely to be Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor and Terengganu Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Samsusi Mokhtar. Beneath Sanusi’s spontaneous and rancorous political style is a brilliant Trump-like populist. Samsuri is not talked about much nationally yet he is consequentially important because of his effectiveness as a strategist and by virtue of him holding the Menteri Besar post. For the first time since the Young Turks that included Hadi launched a party coup 40 years ago in 1982, PAS is now likely to witness a major generational shift soon.
Once PAS transitions into the Sanusi-Samsuri generation, no one can rule out a spectacular resetting of directions.
Bersatu is now without a power base, and is inevitably being squeezed by PAS. It will take a lot of cohesiveness and determination for Bersatu to persevere for three to four years into the next general election.
I am not writing off Bersatu just yet but the writing is on the wall for Datuk Seri Azmin Ali. While Azmin won the Hulu Kelang state seat, he seems to have no political future. Outside his own party, he is constrained by the multiethnic character of Selangor and his own inability to operate without government resources and powers. Within Bersatu, he is already being marginalised by Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin’s camp.
𝟰. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗲𝗲-𝗰𝗼𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗳𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿
The other long-term implication of the 6-state elections is that the three-coalition battles between the 14th general election (PH versus BN vs PAS) and the 15th general election (PH versus BN versus PN) has officially ended.
The political structure from now until GE16 will be a straight fight between the Unity Government and PN, unless PN is imploded before the next general election.
The effort to mobilise Malay-only anger will wane once the anger is maxed out and ventilated, and when the Unity Government can finally govern properly with the support of all ethnic groups.
Liew Chin Tong