One-to-one electoral contest is one of the two elements for an united Opposition to replace UMNO/BN in 14 GE – the other more important is a minimum common electoral programme
Everyone agrees with National Human Rights Society (HAKAM) Chairperson Datuk Ambiga Sreenivasan who said at the 69th birthday celebration for jailed Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim outside Sungai Buloh prison on Wednesday night that the best birthday present for Anwar would be a united opposition against UMNO/BN to face the 14th General Election.
A one-to-one electoral contest is one of the two elements for an united Opposition to replace UMNO/BN in 14GE – the other more important is a minimum common electoral programme.
Can we for instance replicate or improve on the Opposition’s performance of the 13th General Election on May 5, 2013 when the Opposition, then in the form and name of Pakatan Rakyat, won three state governments, polled 53% of the popular vote, and elected 89 Members of Parliament and 229 State Assembly men and women, excluding Sarawak?
As things stand today, assuming that the current political climate holds without any major changes, it would be naïve to assume that voters would simply revert back to their GE2013 voting habits if one-to-one fights can be guaranteed in the next general election.
Lets consider Selangor, using the results of the recent Sungai Besar by-election as a benchmark.
In this by-election, PAS received almost no non-Malay support after receiving more than 70% of the non-Malay vote in GE2013. AMANAH received approximately 65% of the Chinese vote, a drop of 10% compared to GE2013. Estimating the Indian vote is tricky because of the relatively small number of Indian voters in Sungai Besar but let’s assume that the opposition as a whole (PAS and AMANAH) received 5% less Indian votes compared to GE2013. The combined support for the opposition (PAS and AMANAH) did not change by much (remained at approx. 37%).
For argument’s sake, let’s assume that PKR, DAP and PAS were to recontest the same seats as GE2013 in the next election.
Let us also assume based on the Sungai Besar by-election result, the following changes in support for DAP, PKR and PAS respectively by the Malay, Chinese, Indian and Other voters as shown in Table 1 below:
DAP’s support among the Malays is estimated to drop by 20% because of the breakdown of its relationship with PAS and its Chinese support by 10% because of lower turnout and disappointment with the opposition in general.
For PKR, the estimated drop in its Malay support is lower, at 2%, because of uncertainty surrounding its leadership and direction and its Chinese support is estimated to drop by 15% because of its uncertain position vis-à-vis PAS.
For PAS, its Malay support, for argument’s sake, is assumed to increase by 1% because of its seemingly uncompromising position vis-à-vis DAP and to a lesser extent, PKR, but this comes at a cost of losing an estimated 50% of its Chinese support (which may be an underestimate, based on the Sungai Besar results). PAS’ drop in Indian support is half the drop in the Chinese support at 25%.
Let’s assume that the drop of support for the DAP and PKR among Indian and Other voters is at 5% which is lower than the drop in Chinese support because of the lower baseline compared to GE2013.
Table 1: Change in support for the DAP, PKR and PAS among the different communities in Selangor, GE14
Percentage change in support by race
What will be the anticipated outcome? The results are summarized in Table 2 below.
Table 2: Estimated number of state seats won the opposition parties in Selangor, given the assumptions in Table 1
Number of seats by party
Opposition 44 24
The biggest losers, based on the projections in Table 2, will be PAS. It will see its number of seats fall from 15 in GE13 to 1 in GE14. This is not surprising given that PAS won many of its seats in GE13 because of a massive increase in its support among non-Malay voters most of whom will not likely vote for PAS even in the event of a one-on-one fight against the BN (Many may choose to spoil their votes instead).
PKR will lose three seats going from 14 seats to 11 and DAP will also lose 3 seats going from 15 to 12. The opposition as a whole will only win 24 out of 56 State Assembly seats, which is 5 short of a majority to retain the state government.
The reality that PAS will be the biggest losers in Selangor is no great comfort to the DAP given the likelihood that the Selangor state government will fall back to the BN. This can and should be avoided. But it cannot be avoided merely by agreeing to have one-on-one fights against the BN in Selangor.
The formation of a new party BERSATU by former Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir and former Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, could be a game-changer if it could win a sizable portion of the UMNO votes in the 14GE. If BERSATU can win 40% of the popular vote in UMNO-contested constituencies, then BERSATU can win up to 23 State Assembly seats in Selangor, which will deny UMNO/BN the prize of recapturing the Selangor State Government in 14GE.
Similarly, for Johor and the states outside the northern belt of Peninsular Malaysia, BERSATU can play a catalytic and far-reaching impact in the outcome of the 14GE results.
However, the Opposition must present a cohesive, purpose and visionary unity, not just confined to a one-to-one contest, but to win back the trust of the voters and to provide voters with a compelling reason for them to turn out to vote.
The Opposition needs a new agenda for change that builds on the Common Policy Framework and the many policy positions which Pakatan Rakyat took as a united coalition before it was dissolved.
But as long as mixed and conflicting messages are coming from the PAS leadership on a whole host of issues including the position of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the response to the global 1MDB scandal, it is almost impossible to imagine the creation of this new agenda which includes PAS.
On March 31 last year, I had said that if Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional could not save Malaysia and arrest the country from hurtling down the slippery slope of a failed, rogue and fractured state, then the time may have come for Malaysians to think the unthinkable of a new coalition which should be fully inclusive of all Malaysian races, religions and regions, in other words, a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-regional new Malaysian coalition government comprising Muslims and non-Muslims, Malays and non-Malays, and Malaysians from Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah.
I had suggested at the time that the top priority of this new coalition, apart from defending constitutionalism and the rule of law, should also focus what I had proposed at the time as:
- Five fundamental principles of defending constitutionalism like Islam as the official religion and freedom of practice for other religions; constitutional monarchy; Bahasa Malaysia as official language and free use and study of other languages and upholding the guarantee and spirit of Federalism in the Malaysia Agreement 1963;
- Ten-Point Programme for a High-Performance, Sustainable and Equitable Economy;
- Nine-Point Agenda to restore the doctrine of separation of powers among the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary as well as the independence, professionalism and integrity of national institutions; and
- Seven immediate tasks to promote national unity and understanding among the diverse races, religions and cultures in the country.
The time has come for a national debate on the full reform of Malaysia to escape the trap of a failed, rogue and fractured Malaysia.