PETALING JAYA: The absence of the anti-hopping law in Pahang may make the state government vulnerable in the event of a massive win for Perikatan Nasional (PN) at the Pelangai by-election, say political observers.
However, they dismissed the likelihood of a change in government through defections.
This comes amid recent speculation that a big PN win in the one-time Umno stronghold could embolden the opposition to pressure Barisan Nasional (BN) assemblymen to switch sides and help them form a new state government.
Currently, PN holds 17 seats in the 42-member state assembly, while BN has 16 and leads the state unity government with the support of the eight assemblymen from Pakatan Harapan (PH). A simple majority of 22 seats is needed to form the state government.
The by-election for the Pelangai state seat will see a three-cornered fight come Oct 7 with early voting on Oct 3.
The by-election is being held following the death of Umno assemblyman and Pahang exco member Johari Harun in the plane crash near Bandar Elmina in Shah Alam on Aug 17.
In the 15th general election (GE15), Johari won with a majority of 4,048 votes, defeating PN’s Kasim Samat, Pakatan Harapan’s Ahmed Wafiuddin Shamsuri and Isa Ahmad of Pejuang.
Of the 16,456 voters in Pelangai, 72.1% are Malays, 18.2% are Chinese while Indians make up 5.7%.
Former Klang MP Charles Santiago said talk of representatives jumping ship may have been sparked by recent reports that Pahang BN chief Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail, who is menteri besar, was seen meeting with Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin.
“I feel it will not be easy for the assemblymen to switch parties at this juncture even if the PAS candidate wins Pelangai with a landslide majority. However, it will indicate a massive shift of Malay votes from Umno.
“Everyone wants a stable government and I think the royalty will also prefer to see the status quo maintained until the next elections take place,” he told FMT.
Political analyst Azmi Hassan of Akedemi Nusantara said that although the PAS-led PN is making a serious push to snatch the seat to show that Malays had deserted Umno, there appears to be no strong desire by any BN or PH representative to switch over.
“The menteri besar is well-liked by the people in the state and also the palace. The relationship between them is very cordial and the administration is quite smooth.
“If any assemblyman jumps ship, the people are likely to retaliate at the next elections. If PN wins Pelangai, it will need to convince at least four BN or PH assemblymen to cross over to take over the government. I don’t think anyone is in the mood right now for a change to a well-run administration,” he said.
No issues with state government
Sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya (UM) agreed that the people and royalty would prefer political stability instead of the disruption caused by more change.
“There are no issues strong enough to warrant changing the government after just one year. It will be hard for the people and the royalty to accept if any assemblyman switches parties just to change the government,” he said.
On BN’s chances in Pelangai, Santiago said the seat was held by former menteri besar Adnan Yaakob for eight terms before Johari replaced the former state Umno chief in 2022.
However, recent polling trends among Malay voters did not bode well for BN.
“In GE15, BN obtained 7,308 votes with its ally PH getting 2,031 votes and PAS 3,260. With the loss of Malay votes, as the recent elections in six states had shown, it may not be that easy for BN to win a comfortable majority anymore,” he said.
Santiago said Adnan, as menteri besar, had brought a lot of benefits to the voters in the semi-urban seat.
“So, in this context, Umno has an advantage,” he added.
Azmi said that the votes of the 4,000-odd non-Malay voters will have significant bearing on the outcome, as they are traditionally PH supporters.
“The voting pattern in recent elections showed that many non-Malay voters had stayed away or even backed PN candidates. Their support is vital to offset the expected loss of Malay votes (for BN),” he said.