Malaysia’s GE14 challengers and battlegrounds

Pakatan Harapan has still not named its candidate for the upcoming general election. The key battle-zones are already shaping up for a hard-fought election in 2018.

By Oliver Ward

The Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) members took their seats at the party’s first ever annual general assembly (AGM). The parade of orange tunics offered a glimpse into how the party might fight the next election. Dr Mahathir Mohamad stood front and centre. Former Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin watched from the front row.

Pakatan Harapan (PH) is the coalition that will fight Prime Minister Najib Razak. However, it has not decided on who will stand against him as the candidate. But at the PPBM AGM the clamour and excitement was for one man alone; Mahathir Mohamad.

Who will challenge Najib?

Dr Mahathir is the most likely candidate to run against Najib under the PH banner. If elected, the 92-year-old will become interim Prime Minister. He will likely hold this post until Anwar Ibrahim gets out of prison. The PPBM proposal includes Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as Deputy Prime Minister.

However, Anwar Ibrahim, has still not agreed to the proposal. He is PKR’s imprisoned de-facto leader. Anwar has three conditions for Mahathir before he will agree to his candidacy. He wants Mahathir to release him from prison within six to twelve months of the election. Once Anwar is out of prison, he expects Mahathir to stand aside as prime minister.

Further delay could cost PH votes

The inability of the PH coalition to reach a unanimous agreement could cost votes. The ruling coalition has already launched the web portal for the election. This may indicate that Najib is shaping up to call an early election. He may choose to hold the election immediately after Chinese New Year. This would allow Najib to take advantage of the festivities. The season usually brings a positive mood in the financial markets. The timing would also capitalise on the disunity within the PH coalition.

PH must name a candidate soon to allow enough time for campaigning. Leaving it too late will disadvantage the opposition bloc on the campaign trail. Mahathir is a strong choice. He commands swathes of support in Langkawi and his home state of Kedah. The Malaysian Insight conducted a poll on social media. It asked more than 1000 respondents if Mahathir should lead the opposition. 55.8% voted yes. It may be a bitter pill to swallow. Mahathir as the opposition candidate represents Anwar’s strongest chance of unseating Najib.

Source: Today Online

The General Election will be won or lost in Selangor, Kedah and Johor

The battlegrounds for GE14 will be Selangor, Kedah and Johor. In Selangor, the opposition has done a good job governing the state since 2008. The Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) split from the opposition coalition in 2015. PAS may decide to contest the state and split the opposition vote. Selangor Chief Minister and Vice-President of PKR, Azmin Ali will have to negotiate with PAS to avoid a three-horse race at all costs.

Any deal would likely involve a power-sharing arrangement between PAS and PH. PAS have three representatives on the 11-member Selangor State Executive Council. It also won 15 of the 56 seats in the state legislative assembly.

Azmin Ali will have to prevent Najib from redrawing constituency boundaries across Selangor. Najib’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) party wants to redraw the boundaries. They have submitted a motion to get it done before the election. The new constituency boundaries would favour his party in the next election. The Election Commission is still considering the motion and hearing voters objections.

Mahathir’s legacy may win Kedah for the opposition

Kedah is Mahathir’s birthplace. His son, Mukhriz Mahathir was its Chief Minister until 2016. In 2016 Mukhriz left United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). He joined his father’s PPBM. The Mahathir family still enjoys support in Kedah. The state could go either way. Kedah’s public may decide Najib’s future in Malaysian politics.

Johor has traditionally been a UMNO stronghold. However, at the last election in 2013, PH managed to win 16 seats out of a possible 56 here. The most seats an opposition party had ever won before in Johor was five.

PH will likely have the former Deputy Prime Minister defend his seat in Johor. Muhyiddin Yassin is a charismatic orator. Najib removed him from the post of Deputy Prime Minister. He had publicly questioned Najib’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal. Muhyiddin represents the best chance of PH exploiting Najib’s questionable record. He can help the opposition build on its 2013 successes in Johor. At a recent dinner in Grisek, Muhyiddin declared that Johor was no longer a UMNO fortress. The crowd in attendance cheered and applauded.

The PH coalition must name its candidate soon to begin fighting in these decisive states. An opposition tainted by disunity will give hand Najib an easy victory.

The semi-urban battlegrounds of Selangor, Johor, and Kedah will decide Malaysia’s fate. There are around 40 marginal seats up for grabs. Neither Najib nor the PH opposition can afford to take anything for granted. The only certainty is the battle will be hard-fought, and only one man will emerge victorious.