KUALA LUMPUR – All appeared not lost for ex-premier Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) in the aftermath of the state election in Melaka but the future of Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH), and other senior figures in the coalition was called into question.
Analysts said PN made inroads in several seats in the state even though it managed to win only two of the 28 at stake in the legislative assembly.
“More than winning two seats, PN has established itself as the preferred alternative to Umno in Tanjung Bidara, Telok Mas and many other Malay-majority constituencies,” said Sunway University political scientist Wong Chin Huat in a Facebook post on Sunday.
“This victory means a BN-PN-PH tripartite contest in the 15th general election (GE15),” he added. BN refers to the Umno-led Barisan Nasional while PH is the Pakatan Harapan coalition.
On Saturday, PN won Sungai Udang – a BN stronghold – and wrested Bemban from PH.
It also put in an impressive performance in Tanjung Bidara, another BN stronghold, with its chief minister nominee, Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, losing by a mere 360 votes in the constituency where BN took 3,559 votes and PH just 489. .
At a press conference Saturday night, Mr Muhyiddin, who is leader of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia as well as PN, said he would remain steadfast in the decision to contest the next general election under the PN banner.
“We are confident that our principles and the foundation of Bersatu and PN can uphold better governance,” he told reporters.
The Melaka poll was triggered after four assemblymen defected from the Umno-led state government, which then included its allies from Bersatu and Islamist PAS. Bersatu and PAS which are the bulwarks of the PN coalition which decided to contest under its own banner for the state poll.
The eventual result saw the Umno-led BN romp home with 21 seats. PH took the remaining five in play.
Hours after the final result BN’s Lendu state assemblyman Sulaiman Md Ali was sworn in as the 13th chief minister of Melaka. The state executive council lineup for the new administration will be announced next week.
University of Tasmania’s director of Asia Institute James Chin was also not surprised by the fact that PN had made inroads in Umno held seats in the state election.
“In terms of PN, especially Bersatu, these people are former Umno people so obviously they have been involved in politics for a long time. What Bersatu lacks compared to Umno is the machinery,” Prof Chin told The Straits Times.
“In the last few years even they have tried to set up their machinery but have yet to catch up to Umno’s – that’s the killer issue,” he said.
Prof Chin said the result in Melaka though would impact morale and stop people from joining PN.
“If a (political) person is ambitious, it’s better to join Umno than take your chance with Bersatu, that’s the problem for them. Then it’ll be harder for them to set up the machinery and attract more people to join them after the Melaka fiasco,” he said.
The opposition PH suffered the biggest blow on Saturday as it had won 15 seats in the May 2018 general election.
Social media was abuzz, with thousands of tweets calling for Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim to step down following his Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s poor performance in the poll. It lost all 11 seats it contested. #Anwar was also trending on the microblogging site with more than 12,000 tweets.
“It’s time for Anwar, Lims, et al to make way for a younger generation,” said Twitter user orangasle. He was referring to other seasoned PH politicians such as Democratic Action Party leaders Lim Kit Siang and his son, Guan Eng.
Mr Anwar, whose decision to court two of the rebels in the former state assembly was controversial even within PH ranks, has not commented on the Melaka result.
Taking to Twitter, PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli said: “Do not be overly sad or defeated, there are valuable lessons behind the Malacca poll outcome. If PKR and PH leaders learn from this result, set aside their egos, InsyaAllah (God willing) GE15 will be better.”
Echoing the same sentiment Prof Chin said: “If the political situation remains the same in GE15, as in now with Anwar leading the coalition, it is my take that they will lose in GE15. Anwar has made too many political mistakes in the last few years, it makes him look very bad. He lost Melaka and it looks like PKR will lose in Sarawak (state election) as well,” he said.
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