GEORGE TOWN: It will be an uphill task for Barisan Nasional to reclaim Penang, analysts have speculated.
They say Pakatan Harapan (PH) might lose a seat or two in the coming general election but they foresee it maintaining its grip on the state.
Their comments followed BN deputy president Mohamad Hasan’s statement that it was not impossible for the coalition to beat the opposition in Penang, given DAP’s losses in the Melaka, Johor and Sarawak state elections.
Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk of Universiti Sains Malaysia said Mohamad’s claim, like that of every politician, needed to be taken with a pinch of salt.
“Melaka and Johor cannot be used as a benchmark as the voter turnout was low,” he told FMT.
“Without empirical evidence, we can’t read the sentiment on the ground. BN was almost decimated when it won just two of 40 seats contested in Penang in the 2018 polls. It’s not going to be easy to make a comeback.”
BN contested for all the state seats in the 2018 elections, with Umno contesting for 15, MCA 10 and MIC two. Gerakan, which was then a BN member, contested for 13 seats.
Azeem said it was highly likely that DAP would retain its current 19 seats, but PKR might lose two or three of its 12 seats.
He said Umno was likely to contest mostly for Malay majority state seats in the Balik Pulau, Kepala Batas and Tasek Gelugor parliamentary areas, which were its strongholds before 2018.
He said three-cornered fights were likely, with Perikatan Nasional (PN) also expected to contest for all the seats.
He said PAS, which is part of PN, was the party “to watch out for” as it had strong grassroots machinery.
University of Tasmania’s James Chin said DAP’s majority in Penang was too big to make it possible for BN to win the state.
“PH will retain power. Gerakan, on the other hand, despite being a ruling party for a long time, has no chance. Locals don’t even know who its leader is.”
Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said DAP would fare well, but PKR and Amanah might not.
He said BN would likely retain the seats it now held.
He said Malay voters were expected to swing towards BN like they did in the Johor and Melaka state elections.
However, Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara had a more positive outlook for BN, saying it could turn its fortunes around “with the right pitch”.
He said BN should remind Penangites that they have a chance to be aligned with the federal government and enjoy the benefits of being under the same party.
“They should ask, ‘Would we want to be left out?’”
Presently, PH has 33 seats in the state, with DAP holding 19, PKR 12 and Amanah two. In the opposition, PN holds five seats while BN holds two.