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GE14: BN may not have enough safe seats to stay in power

 | October 19, 2017

Political economist Marzuki Mohamad says BN can only safely bank on winning 57 parliamentary seats in the peninsula and 43 in Sabah and Sarawak.

Putrajaya-BNPETALING JAYA: Barisan Nasional (BN) may not be able to retain Putrajaya in the upcoming general election (GE14) as its number of safe seats still falls short of the total needed for a simple majority, a political scientist warns.

Marzuki Mohamad, who is an associate professor at the International Islamic University Malaysia, said despite BN’s history of electoral victories, only 100 out of 222 parliamentary seats could be considered safe for the ruling coalition.

“Unless Prime Minister Najib Razak can turn the remaining seats into safe seats for BN, calling for a general election now will be a bit risky for him,” he said in an analysis carried by New Mandala today.

Realistically speaking, Marzuki said, Umno only has a sure chance of winning in 57 out of 165 parliamentary constituencies in the peninsula.

This is despite 70 of these seats being in Malay-majority constituencies, where Malay voters make up more than 70% of the electorate.

Pointing out that eight of these seats are in Kedah, which is a stronghold of Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Marzuki added that at least five others are heavily influenced by PAS.

He added that non-Malay support for BN had been extremely low since GE13, with recent surveys showing no significant improvement in non-Malay support for the government.

According to him, there are 47 parliamentary seats in marginal Malay-majority constituencies in the peninsula, where non-Malay voters form more than 30% of the electorate.

“PAS’ influence in these constituencies is relatively minimal, and may not impact much on the Malay vote split.

“It is in these areas that PH is making significant inroads, posing a serious challenge to BN. Some of the parliamentary seats in these areas are already in the hands of PH parties,” he added.

Marzuki said there are also 48 non-Malay majority constituencies in the peninsula which can be considered safe seats for the opposition.

This leaves the 57 parliamentary seats in Sabah and Sarawak, which have traditionally been seen as BN’s “fixed deposits”, he added.

However, nine of these seats are now held by the opposition, with another five located in the east coast of Sabah, where Parti Warisan Sabah is making “significant inroads”, he said.

“These seats too are no longer safe seats for BN. So, out of 57 parliamentary seats in Sabah and Sarawak, only 43 can be considered safe for BN.”

According to Marzuki, BN’s past victories were due to its ability to deliver economic development and maintain political stability.

However, given the rising cost of living, the abolishment of subsidies for essential items, the inflation caused by the weak ringgit and the 6% goods and services tax (GST), “the current state of the country’s economy doesn’t look good”, he said.

Even the 2018 Budget, due to be tabled in Parliament later this month, will provide very little room for Najib to create a “feel-good” factor as “the government’s coffers are depleting, contingent liabilities are huge, and the need to keep budget deficits low remains”.

This is on top of the 1MDB scandal, which he said had badly affected Najib’s popularity.

“Under these circumstances, Najib may need more time to turn things around.

“But time may not necessarily be on his side,” he said.


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