Prediction: there will very likely be a clean sweep by Perikatan Nasional of all state assembly seats in Kelantan and Terengganu in the coming state elections.
In the 2018 state elections, PAS won 37 seats to 8 won by Barisan Nasional in the 45-member Kelantan state assembly. In Terengganu, PAS won 22 to BN’s 10 seats.
However, the “green wave” of PAS support that struck during the 2022 general election saw PN win all 14 parliamentary seats in Kelantan and all eight in Terengganu.
If the voting patterns remain the same, PN will most likely win all available seats in Kelantan and Terengganu, routing Umno completely and ensuring no other party other than PAS and Bersatu would have any representation in the two states.
In 2018, most of Umno’s seats in Kelantan were won with slim majorities, ranging from 359 in Air Lanas to 1,735 in Galas. The story was similar in Terengganu, where only Langkap and Telemung were won with a majority strong enough for Umno to feel confident it might retain them.
Kelantan and Terengganu are not strong states for Bersatu, so it’s likely the majority of seats in both states will go to PAS. Bersatu, where it does contest, will most likely campaign under the PAS flag.
Umno has lost its local champions in Kelantan like Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who narrowly lost to Azizi Abu Naim in his long-held seat of Gua Musang in November, and Mustapa Mohamed who opted to retire from politics and not stand for election.
Local issues won’t favour unity government
Flooding in the state has been a long-standing issue, and while Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has offered federal assistance many feel that like past governments, the problem isn’t being taken seriously enough at the federal level.
PAS can argue that much of the state funding to Kelantan and Terengganu has been channelled through federal agencies rather than going directly to the states. This has already created anger within communities that Anwar needs to grapple with.
Anwar has pushed the narrative that it will be the states’ more progressive youth that will bring about a change in leadership, but most of the young people who would have felt oppressed by PAS will have long left to other parts of Malaysia.
The key for Pakatan Harapan will be their ability to bring these voters back to cast their ballot in the state election. That’s a very optimistic ask.
The heart of the Malay heartland
Umno is suffering its lowest ebb of support in the two states. Now allied with PH, the messaging of the two allies is just not cutting through. Amanah, which began as a splinter faction of PAS, didn’t take with it many supporters.
Their messaging is alien to the electorate. Issues that urban voters are passionate about, like the eradication of corruption, abuse of power and nepotism in government, just don’t resonate. There is a deep failing to understand the psyche of east coast voters.
Middle class and professional urban voters see PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang’s rhetoric as divisive and against the pluralism of Malaysian society. However, Hadi’s message about a government based upon Islam works well on the east coast.
There are few counter arguments for those who have lived in tightly-knit Muslim communities to rebut what Hadi is saying. To these people this is what the vision of Malaysia should be. Arguing against that vision only turns those voters away.
The irony is that Mahathir Mohamed and Anwar himself created the conditions that brought about the polarisation of Malaysian society. The Islamisation of the education system and the civil service under their former stewardship, created politicians like Hadi.
Voters on the east coast won’t be swayed by financial scandals. Perhaps the only effective way for any ‘unity government’ to increase its influence in Kelantan and Terengganu is to bring PAS into its fold. It certainly seemed to work well for Bersatu and Perikatan Nasional.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.