by Philip Golingai
THE possibility – if you are an Umno/PAS politician or supporter – is mouthwatering.
When you add the votes the two “newly-wed” parties received in GE14, they could have won many Malay-majority seats they lost.
Take the Jerlun parliamentary seat.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia deputy president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir won the Kedah seat, with 91% Malays out of the total voters, by a majority of 5,895. However, if PAS’ 12,829 votes and Barisan Nasional/Umno’s 12,413 votes were combined (25,241), Umno/PAS would have won it by 6,547 votes.
Take the Parit Buntar parliamentary seat.
Amanah vice-president Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa won the Perak seat, with 69% Malays out of the total voters, by a majority of 3,098. However, if PAS’ 12,312 votes and Barisan/Umno’s 13,655 votes were combined (25,967), Umno/PAS would have won it by a majority of 9,214 votes.
There are 29 MP seats the two parties could have won if their votes were not split.
Based on GE14 results, according to Umno Youth Chief Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, Umno and PAS combined could win at least 101 MP seats – Umno 54; PAS 18; plus, the 29 seats Pakatan Harapan won due to three-cornered fights.
That’s 11 MPs shy of a simple majority to form the Federal Government.
“This is only a simple calculation without taking into account the sentiment of the voters,” Asyraf said. “I believe with the heightened grievances towards the present government, at least 25 traditional Umno seats can be regained.”
Bridget Welsh, the editor of The End of Umno: Essays on Malaysia’s Former Dominant Party, crunched the numbers on how many of the 222 parliamentary constituencies, a united Umno and PAS could win in GE15. On the surface, Welsh said the alliance would yield 109 seats base on winning Malay-majority constituencies. It could win 125 seats base on the combination of PAS and Barisan votes, she said.
“These are based purely on the GE14 results and should only be seen as possible markers of support,” she qualified.
There were five things to consider in looking at the possible trajectories, Welsh said.
First is Inter-party cooperation: “Whether PAS and Umno grassroots will be comfortable working together. It is one thing to have this dynamic in a by-election where the target is the Pakatan government, it is another to have this play out in states where there has been traditional antipathy, e.g. Terengganu and Kelantan,” she said.
Second, Inter-coalition effect: “An important question is whether non-Malays would vote for Barisan with PAS as part of the ‘marriage’ option. One thus cannot underestimate the multi-ethnic effect of Barisan, especially strong in Sabah and Sarawak where there is greater resistance to PAS.”
Third, Protest effect: Much of the support for PAS was a negative vote against Umno and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
“It is thus important not to overstate PAS support. Many did not vote for the PAS agenda,” said Welsh.
Fourth, Party decay: “One also cannot assume they have the same level of support as in the past.”
And fifth, Leadership effect: Neither PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang nor former Umno president Najib will be viable as a national leader.
Political analyst Dr Abdul Latiff Mohd Ibrahim said based on the GE14 results, Umno and PAS’ marriage of convenience stand to increase their seats to around 122.
However, he said, one had to factor in how Pakatan was going to strategise from now to GE15 to confront this new alliance.
“That will also have a strong bearing on the voting trend and the fortunes of the two coalitions. Once PH overcomes its current ‘learning’ woes, some improvements to its performance are to be expected,” he said.
The only drawback, Abdul Latiff said, was how Pakatan was going to counter racist propaganda from Umno-PAS given that they have made DAP their punching bag.
“So far DAP’s reactions have not helped bring down the racist temperature created by Umno and PAS. DAP must do a lot more learning of Malay-Muslim culture and psychology in order to reduce the effect of the racist propaganda being unleashed currently,” he said.
Political analyst Dr Sharifah Syahirah Syed Sheikh said the combination of the two well-established parties would definitely have a strong impact.
“Hopefully they will not use race/religious negative sentiments to gain popularity. They should focus on long term goals such as national unity and the country’s development,” she said.
The combined clout of the two parties was demonstrated in the Semenyih state by-election. With the support of the Islamist party, Umno regained the constituency it lost to Pakatan in GE14 when both parties stood against each other.
Will their political marriage ensure that Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan can retain his Rantau state seat? It might be a tricky by-election as unlike Semenyih where 68% of the total voters are Malays, in Rantau it is 54%.
It would be a big challenge for Barisan/Umno to retain the seat, said Abdul Latiff.
“Even if Umno garners 80% of the Malay votes that would be 42% of the total Malay votes and they would be hard-pressed to achieve the remaining 9% from the non-Malay votes which PH is expected to gain,” he said.
To gauge who would win Rantau which is a Barisan’s stronghold, Sharifah Syahirah said one needed to consider indicators such as candidate’s locality, personality and track record.
Asyraf is optimistic the former Negeri Sembilan Mentri Besar could win mainly because of his personality.
“He has been serving the people there like his own family. Everyone is close to him including the Chinese and Indians,” he said.
Umno and PAS, said Asyraf, still needed non-Malay votes as they did not want to take over the country by undermining its special legacy of having representatives of diverse races. Welsh noted that non-Malays mattered politically and they held the balance of power.
With 46% Chinese and Indians out of the total voters in Rantau, any rational party will drool for their votes.
First published in The Star