PETALING JAYA: Some 2.9 million new voters in six states will be going to the polls compared to the 2018 elections, throwing the race for power wide open, according to analysts.
While it is a given that most of them are likely to vote for Perikatan Nasional, in the Malay belt states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah, a bruising battle can be expected in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan between Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH).
As for Penang, they do not see the increase in the number of voters having much of an impact on the outcome.
The latest figures from the Election Commission show a total of 2,900,743 new voters in the six states. Selangor has the highest number with 1,334,376 followed by Kedah (440,198), Kelantan (363,641), Penang (289,699), Negeri Sembilan (277,807) and Terengganu (195,022)
Sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said an estimated 65% of them are Malay; the huge increase is bound to add much pressure especially in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, states ruled by Pakatan Harapan.
“When it comes to sub-urban and rural constituencies, Malay votes matter especially for Barisan Nasional (BN) and PH. The 1.3-million increase in Selangor voters poses a serious challenge to the incumbent Pakatan Harapan,” he told FMT.
“If PH and BN are not careful, these new voters could back Perikatan Nasional especially with former Umno leaders like Noh Omar campaigning for the opposition in Selangor.”
Awang Azman said the repeated race and religion rhetoric being spewed by former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang is likely to influence young minds as there is a lack of counter narrative by PH and BN.
He said many youths have warmed up to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s leadership and this could see a bigger turnout from the new voters.
“However, this does not mean most of them will vote for the unity government candidates. In all likelihood, the outcome of state polls could be decided by who these new voters choose.”
Another analyst, Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara, expects the new voters to play a vital role in the states of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan although he does not expect a huge turnout.
He said as most of them are Malays, the race and religion rhetoric will have an effect on the younger voters who will be bold enough to make decisions that are “unthinkable.”
“ Race and religion will be playing a major factor because PAS learnt in GE15 that this can attract the voters especially the young first-time Malay voters.
“They are attracted to this particular issue especially with PN being a very new entity compared to BN which has a lot of liabilities.
“So, this plus Dr Mahathir’s Malay Proclamation with Hadi and Muhyiddin Yassin joining in the bandwagon, will certainly influence the younger voters to an extent,” he said.
Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid of Universiti Sains Malaysia said although the use of the race and religion card may affect the voters to some extent, it cannot be assumed that Malays in Selangor will necessarily vote against PH based on these factors.
“Selangor is an urban state and more ethnically pluralistic. While PH-BN is expected to be given a run for their money by the PN, all odds are for the unity government retaining the state albeit with lower Malay support,” he said.
However, he does not expect the new voters to come out in droves to cast their ballots as they would probably think that whatever the outcome, the federal government would most probably continue to be in power.