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Why Harapan should not underestimate Indian voters

Ooi Heng, Elijah Khor & Yasmin  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | While talking about the general election results in the past, we would usually treat BN as a whole. However, as Umno is facing a significant political split, it is necessary to take Umno’s parliamentary election results out of BN for further assessment.

Whenever Umno faced a political split that has more meaningful impact, its  Malay votes would drop, and its parliamentary seats would be subsequently reduced as well.

Before the 1990 general election, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah parted ways with Dr Mahathir Mohamad and splintered off from Umno to form a new party, Semangat 46. As a result, the parliamentary seats won by Umno dropped by 12 seats, from 83 seats in 1986 to 71 seats in 1990.

Before the 1999 general election, Anwar Ibrahim was brutally persecuted, leading to the Reformasi political movement, thus party leaders and followers, as well as civil society activists, joined hands to form a new party, Parti Keadilan Nasional. As for the electoral result, the parliamentary seats won by Umno this time dropped by 17 seats, from 89 seats in 1995 to 72 seats in 1999.

Later, on Aug 3, 2003, Parti Keadilan Nasional officially merged with Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) to become Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

During both of the political splits mentioned above, Mahathir was the president of Umno and also the prime minister. This time, Mahathir split with Najib Abdul Razak, who is also the current Umno president and the current prime minister, to form a new party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

In this coming general election, how many parliamentary seats Umno will lose is crucial to determine the election result.

There are two scenarios.

The first scenario

This time Umno will lose 15 to 20 seats, out of 88 seats i won in GE13. Therefore, in this election Umno will be left with 68 to 73 seats.

This scenario is assuming that every “meaningful split” being faced by Umno would result in a more severe split than before, and translate into a kind of electoral result. This would mean that Umno’s performance in 1999, as compared with 1995, was worse than its 1990 result as compared with 1986.

Based on this, Umno's result in GE14, as compared with the GE13, will be relatively worse than the GE10 (1999) as compared with the GE9 (1995), or come close to that.

The second scenario

This time Umno will not only perform worse than before, but also demonstrate the worst fall in history, reducing its number of parliamentary seats by 25 to 30 seats. If this is the case, in GE14, Umno will be left with 58 to 63 seats.

This scenario is considering the fact that out of the former Umno leaders who have led the opposition coalition in the past to challenge Umno, the highest-ranking one was a former deputy prime minister.

In this round, Mahathir is a former prime minister who was in office for 22 years, and the two elections before this – GE12 (2008) and GE13 (2013) – have successfully changed the political landscape, and also shaken up the one-party dominant system that used to be unchallengeable.

Based on this scenario, other than Umno showing a definite loss of parliamentary seats, the overall result of BN in GE14 will not be a repeat of the situation in GE10 (1999), where “the Malay voters opposed but the non-Malay voters did not oppose”, or a result where “BN saved Umno”.

In the 1990 and the 1999 elections, even though Umno faced splintering, the one-party dominant system had not been thawed.

However, today, after experiencing the change in political landscape through the 2008 and 2013 elections, the one-party dominant system has loosened. Based on this, this time there shall not be a result where “BN saved Umno”...

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