Analysts see a difficult path for PH to win over fence sitters

Analysts warn that it will be difficult for Pakatan Harapan (PH) to meet its goal of winning more than 30% of the estimated 60% of voters to retake Putrajaya in the 15th general election, although it has an advantage because of this could splits in the Malayan vote.

Rafizi Ramli, vice-chairman of PH’s pivotal party PKR, said recently that multiway competitions would not necessarily harm the pact, but that it would need to garner the support of those on the fence to form the government.

But Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said PH must win the support of a large segment of those voters or risk the same defeat it suffered in Johor and Melaka state elections.

“The challenge for PH is to get the support of the Undi 18 group and the fence sitters,” he said.

He added that Rafizi’s confidence appeared high given the general lethargy of voters since the Covid-19 pandemic, which he attributed to fatigue over political issues and politicians’ behavior.

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He also referred to the rapid change of government, which has installed three prime ministers in the four years since the last general election.

“If PH can win over 30% of the voters on the fence that would be an extraordinary achievement for me,” he told MalaysiaNow.

Kartini Aboo Talib of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said while Rafizi had the advantage of conducting polls to predict voter patterns, questions remained about his sampling method.

“Rafizi may have data from his observations and surveys, but he needs to be transparent about his methods and sampling before creating targets for GE15,” she said.

BN support stagnant

While Barisan Nasional (BN) won both the state elections in Melaka and Johor in a landslide, there was no increase in the overall percentage of BN voters, giving PH some hope for GE15.

The percentage of voters by constituency also remained in the same range of support.

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However, Kartini warned that GE15’s results could differ from those of the 2018 election, saying current events could influence voters’ decisions.

BN garnered the support of 37.84% of voters at GE14, a figure that rose only marginally to 38.39% in last November’s state election in Melaka.

Meanwhile, in March’s Johor election, BN won 43.11% of voter support.

Her by-election victories also relied on low turnout, which allowed her to mobilize her die-hard voters.

Looking ahead to GE15, Kartini expects a high turnout given the country’s high vaccination rates.

She said PH’s need for 30% of those on the fence relates to areas clearly supporting the pact, such as municipal and non-Malay seats.

Still, she said that issues of region and ethnicity are not absolute factors in determining the outcome of the election.

“Strategic interests and consensus can also unite and divide coalitions within each party,” she said.

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“And Malaysian voters are faced with the dilemma of whether to vote for Umno, PAS, Bersatu, PKR, Pejuang, Muda or Warisan.”

A turnaround in the Malaysian vote would be crucial to PH’s goal of retaking Putrajaya.

At GE14, the coalition managed to overthrow BN, partly due to the influence of former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his then party Bersatu.

Mahathir, who is now the Pejuang leader, recently announced a new Malay movement called Gerakan Tanah Air to challenge Umno in the political arena.

Mazlan said Umno and Perikatan Nasional also need the Malaysia vote.

“If the Malaysian vote is split in three directions, the multi-sided battle could benefit PH,” he said.

Kartini, meanwhile, said the “mahathir factor” had begun to wane among both Malays and non-Malays.

Now, she said, the parties most likely to be fishing for votes would be those campaigning on current and post-Covid-19 bread-and-butter issues.