Perikatan Nasional (PN) is in a strong position to capture 14 of the 15 Malay-majority state seats in Penang if voting trends from the 15th general election (GE15) are an indication of things to come.
However, the coalition is unlikely to wrest control of the state government from Pakatan Harapan (PH) as it lacks support from non-Malays who make up the majority (62%-98%) of voters in 25 of the 40 seats in Penang.
One Malay-majority seat which could be difficult for the opposition coalition to win is Batu Maung, where Malays constitute 54% of voters. In the other 14 Malay-majority seats, the community makes up more than 60% of the electorate.
PN’s rise in Penang
In GE15, PN wrested Kepala Batas and Tasek Gelugor from Barisan Nasional (BN), and defeated PH in Permatang Pauh, a seat synonymous with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s family.
There are nine Malay-majority state seats within these constituencies.
Election Commission (EC) data shows that PN won the lion’s share of support from first-time voters, while PH lost votes overall compared with their performance in the previous general election (GE14) in 2018. For the most part, the BN vote share also saw a reduction.
In Permatang Pauh, for example, PN component PAS won 37,600 votes – an increase of 23,200 votes from the 14,400 the party won in GE14. In comparison, BN lost 2,895 votes and PH lost 3,168 votes.
In Tasek Gelugor, Bersatu’s Wan Saiful Wan Jan garnered 16,225 new votes while BN only managed to win 317 new votes compared with GE14. PH saw its vote share reduced by 1,892 votes.
The other five Malay-majority state seats in Penang are in the Batu Kawan and Balik Pulau parliamentary constituencies.
In Balik Pulau, PH’s majority was slashed from 6,464 to 1,582. PN, while losing, increased its vote share from 5,298 to 22,892.
PN, PH confident
PN’s Dr Afif Bahardin is confident the coalition will win all the Malay-majority seats in Penang on the back of sympathy votes because of the prosecution of its leaders, including former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Wan Saiful.
The former Seberang Jaya assemblyman also said he believes PN will get votes from non-Malays who are dissatisfied with the unity government’s performance so far.
Permatang Pasir assemblyman Faiz Fadzil of PH said the coalition’s success in GE15 may not necessarily indicate how people will vote in the state polls, as other issues may take precedence.
He said campaigning in GE15 had focused on national issues rather than the performance of the PH-led state government.
“When we highlight our successes at the state level, we can change perceptions and neutralise the ‘green wave’ that we saw in GE15,” he told FMT.
The “green wave” refers to PAS’ performance in GE15, with the Islamic party winning 43 seats and its supporters helping its PN partner Bersatu to clinch 31 seats too.
Six states – PH-controlled Penang, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, as well as PAS-led Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu – will be holding their state elections within the next four months.FMT