Analysts: Pakatan supporters may sit out vote at GE15, with Umno and PAS set to benefit

Political scientist Wong Chin Huat said it’s hard for people to get excited about a general election after 11 months of 'intense machination'. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Political scientist Wong Chin Huat said it’s hard for people to get excited about a general election after 11 months of ‘intense machination’. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — Many voters, disillusioned with politicians and political parties after a nearly year-long mess in Malaysian politics, may choose not to cast their ballots in the country’s upcoming 15th general election (GE15), political analysts have suggested.

Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said progressive voters who supported Opposition bloc Pakatan Harapan (PH)  in the last general election (GE14) would be the ones most likely to sit out the upcoming one — after seeing the collapse of the PH government last year triggered by what is now known as the “Sheraton move.”

He, together with some other pundits, say a smaller voter turnout will very likely work in favour of Umno and PAS who still have a strong base of supporters.

“I think PAS and Umno still hold large sway over their primarily rural supporters, old and young, and could thus more effectively mobilise them to come out to vote in contrast to PH which has been accused by their progressive supporters of not having done enough to promote progressive causes,” he said.

University of Malaya’s associate professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi agreed with Oh, saying that PH supporters were unhappy with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad after he resigned as prime minister last year without consulting the coalition.

He added that Mahathir’s reluctance to hand over power to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as promised also left a bad taste in the mouths of those who voted for PH expecting that Anwar would be given the post eventually.

The current administration under Perikatan Nasional (PN) is also not popular with voters, Awang Azman added

“There were issues where loan moratoriums were not extended and withdrawing funds from the Employee Provident Fund was difficult. The government is also seen as failing to control Covid-19 to a point where the numbers are exceeding those in China,” he explained.

However, Awang said that not all in PN would be punished equally.

He pointed out that Bersatu was made up of many who had “jumped over” from Umno and PKR, making them quite unpopular.

“Umno, on the other hand, after many jumped (to other parties), has been cleansed from within. This has made them stronger,” he said.

Awang went on to say that PAS’ supporters may go either way should an election be called.

“When issues such as Act 355 (Shariah Courts Act 1965, or RUU 355 in Malay) and anti-gambling measures which were championed previously are no longer voiced, many have stopped supporting PAS.

“But PAS is a party that has many members loyal to their leaders even if the party does not deliver.”

Sunway University’s Wong Chin Huat, a political scientist, said it’s hard for people to get excited about a general election after 11 months of “intense machination.”

“If politicians are competing for power without offering alternative policies, many voters would be disillusioned,” said Wong.

“The more people choose not to vote, the more power those who vote have over others.”

Earlier this month, speculation was rife that GE15 would be held later this year, after Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin lost majority support in Parliament.

However, a state of Emergency has been declared in the nation — purportedly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic — leaving the possibility of a general election in limbo.