• Penang’s economy is healthy and strong with rising incomes and decreasing inequality

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Head of Penang Institute in Kuala Lumpur and Member of Parliament for Serdang on the 13th of October 2017

    Penang’s economy is healthy and strong with rising incomes and decreasing inequality[1]

    Data recently released by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) has shown what many Penangites already know. Penang’s economy is growing strongly with very low unemployment and rising wages across the board coupled with decreasing inequality. A holistic examination of Penang’s economic data shows that Penang is among the top performing states in Malaysia on nearly all the important economic indicators.

    Penang’s GDP per capita in 2016 (current prices) is RM47,322, the second highest after Wilayah Persekutuan, Kuala Lumpur and higher than Selangor (RM44,616), Melaka (RM41,363) and Johor (RM31,952). (See Figure 1 below)

    Figure 1: GDP per capita by state, 2016 (at current prices) (Ringgit Malaysia)

    Penang’s real GDP growth was 5.6% in 2016, 5.5% in 2015 and 8% in 2014 (See Figure 2 below). Penang’s real GDP growth was ranked 2nd in 2014, 5th in 2015 and 3rd in 2016. Penang and Selangor are the only two states to rank in the top 5 states in terms of real GDP growth from 2014 to 2016.

    Figure 2: Real GDP Growth rate by state, 2014 to 2016

    Penang’s unemployment rate of 2.1% in 2016 is the 2nd lowest in the country after Melaka (0.9%) (See Figure 3 below). This shows that despite some of the recent factory closures, the labour market in Penang is still very tight as a result of new and higher value added investments coming into the state.

    Figure 3: Unemployment rate (%) by state, 2016

    Penang’s Median and Mean Household Income of RM5,409 and RM6,771 respectively in 2016 puts it in 5th place behind KL, Selangor, Johor and Melaka (See Figure 4 below).

    Figure 4: Mean and Median Household Income by State, 2016

    If we examine the per capita household income i.e. household income divided by the number of people in each household, we find that Penang is ranked no.3 with a median and mean per capita household income of RM1,595 and RM2,402 respectively (behind Selangor and KL) (See Figure 5 below).

    Figure 5: Per Capita Household Income Mean and Median, by state, 2016 (RM)

    At the same time, Penang has also experienced the 5th largest drop in its Gini Coefficient (a measure of income inequality) from 0.364 in 2014 to 0.356 in 2016, a fall of 0.008. (See Figure 6 below) Note that there were 5 states whose Gini coefficient i.e. inequality actually worsened from 2014 to 2016 namely Sabah, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Kedah and Johor. (See Table 1 below) (Note: the higher the Gini Coefficient, the higher the inequality)

    Figure 6: Gini Coefficient 2014 to 2016, by state

    Table 1: Gini Coefficient and Change in Gini Coefficient 2014 to 2016

    To summarize, in nearly all of the economic data reported above, Penang ranks in the top 3 among all the states in Malaysia and at worse, in the top 5. Penang’s economy is built on a sound foundation that is sustainable and equitable.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] All of the statistics quoted in this statement are from the Department of Statistics, Malaysia (DOSM)

  • Responding to SPAD’s statement on rail ridership in the Klang Valley

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 10th of October 2017

    Responding to SPAD’s statement on rail ridership in the Klang Valley

    I would like to thank the Land Public Transport Commission or the Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) for their statement issued on the 9th of October 2017 which provides figures for rail ridership in 2016 and 2017.[1] As far as I can tell, SPAD does not publish rail or bus ridership figures on its website, despite being the authority regulating most of public transportation so this disclosure is a welcome beginning.

    I stand by my earlier statement issued on the 5th of October 2017 which said that rail ridership has decreased prior to the opening of the full Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT Line 1 (MRT-SBK).[2] Table 1 below shows the changes in ridership from Q2 2015 to Q2 2017 (which is prior to the opening of the full MRT-SBK line). These statistics were obtained from the Ministry of Transportation’s (MoT) website which publishes quarterly rail statistics.[3] From Table 1, we can see that even with the inclusion of the partially opened MRT-SBK line, daily ridership fell from 635,901 in Q2 2015 to 562,923 in Q2 2017, a fall of 72,977 or 11.5%. In fact, ridership on ALL rail lines (not just the KTM Komuter) declined during this time period.

    Table 1: Daily ridership of Rail Services in the Klang Valley, Q2 2015 to Q2 2017

    Type of Service Q2 2015 Q2 2017 Change % Change
    KELANA JAYA 228,763 217,383 (11,380) -5.0%
    AMPANG 175,713 156,248 (19,464) -11.1%
    KL MONORAIL 67,479 48,202 (19,277) -28.6%
    KLIA EKPRESS 9,472 6,071 (3,401) -35.9%
    KLIA TRANSIT 18,518 17,419 (1,099) -5.9%
    MRT SBK 12,622 12,622 NA
    KTM KOMUTER 135,956 104,978 (30,978) -22.8%
    TOTAL 635,901 562,923 (72,977) -11.5%

    Source: Ministry of Transportation (http://www.mot.gov.my/en/resources/rail-statistic)

    I choose Q2 2015 as the starting point to evaluate the effect of the opening of the Sunway BRT in June 2015 and the opening of the LRT extension in June 2016 on the LRT ridership. As Figure 1 above shows, despite the launch of the RM634 million Sunway-BRT (which connects to the LRT system) and the RM8 billion LRT extension (which added 24 new LRT stations to the Kelana Jaya and Ampang lines), ridership on the KJ and Ampang lines actually fell by 5% and 11.1% respectively!

    While I take note of the fact that Prasarana, the 100% Ministry of Finance Incorporate owned company, which operates the Monorail line, is involved in a contract dispute with SCOMI which has led to the removal of five 4-car units on the Monorail system, this is part of the responsibility of the operator (Prasarana) as well as the regulator (SPAD).[4] Members of the public who use the rail system don’t care about any contract disputes. If the service is not convenient or comfortable, they will not use it and this is reflected in the decline in ridership of the monorail.

    The figures released by SPAD compares the daily ridership in 2016 with the daily ridership from January to August 2017. The daily ridership without the MRT line has increased by 12% from 2016 to 2017 (Jan to August) and by 30% if we include the MRT full line operations. For some reason, SPAD did not include the 2015 daily ridership figures. I include the 2015 daily ridership figures in Table 2 below for comparison.[5] When we compare the 2015 daily ridership to the 2017 daily ridership, without the MRT Full Line, the increase is a mere 1.5% from 629,258 in 2015 to 638,605 in 2017 (Jan to August)!

    Table 2: Daily ridership of Rail Services in the Klang Valley, 2015 to 2017 (Jan to August):

    Type of Service 2015 2016 2017 (Jan to August) 2016 to 2017 % Change (2016 to 2017) 2015 to 2017 % Change

    (2015 to 2017)

    KELANA JAYA LINE 225,054 215,855 271,250 55,395 26% 46,196 20.5%
    AMPANG LINE 172,081 161,729 184,931 23,202 14% 12,850 7.5%
    KL MONORAIL 68,679 60,083 53,337 (6,746) -11% (15,342) -22.3%
    KLIA EKPRESS 9,509 6,612 6,593 (19) 0% (2,916) -30.7%
    KLIA TRANSIT 17,799 17,719 19,420 1,701 10% 1,621 9.1%
    KTM Komuter 136,137 108,023 103,074 (4,949) -5% (33,063) -24.3%
    Total (Without MRT) 629,258 570,021 638,605 68,584 12% 9,347 1.5%
    MRT Full Line Opening 101,024
    Total (With MRT) 739,629 169,608 30% 17.5%

    Source: SPAD, MOT

    Furthermore, we have to take into account that the rail ridership figures released by SPAD includes the July-August 2017 figures where the LRT, Monorail and MRT fares were slashed by 50% (from July 17th to August 31st 2017).[6] August 2017 was also when the SEA games were being held which would have increased traffic on the LRT lines (especially to the Bukit Jalil station). But even with the novelty factor, the 50% discount rate and the SEA games, the daily ridership of the MRT Full Line was only 101,024 which is below the target of 150,000 and far below the capacity of 400,000.[7] Even SPAD acknowledges that the fare increase at the end of 2015 resulted in a 9% drop in ridership in 2016. Would the ridership of the LRT and MRT also experience a similar decline once the discount period is over? Only time will tell.

    I hope that people won’t misunderstand the reasons why I am highlighting these statistics. It is not to criticize SPAD or Prasarana for the sake of criticizing. I am strongly in support of public transportation and want more people to use them. If the projected increase in rail ridership is not happening, then we need to know the underlying causes for this. For example, is it the last mile connectivity via feeder buses which is the issue here? Or the inconvenience in terms of additional time spent on the LRT and / or MRT? Or the high cost of parking at the park and ride facilities? These are the issues which SPAD and the public transport operators must look into.

    Finally, I call upon SPAD to publish the daily ridership figures for the bus and rail ridership in the Klang Valley on a monthly basis so that there is greater transparency on the number of people using the various rail services in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. In this day and age when the government is pushing for more ‘big data’ initiatives, surely it would not be too much to ask for SPAD to publish something as basic as daily ridership statistics?

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://www.spad.gov.my/media-centre/media-releases/2017/governments-initiative-public-transport-results-increased-ridership

    [2] http://ongkianming.com/2017/10/05/media-statement-najib-must-explain-the-lack-of-increase-in-ridership-on-the-rail-system-in-the-klang-valley-despite-billions-spent-on-the-lrt-extension-the-mrt-and-the-ktm-komuter-double-tracking-proj/

    [3] http://www.mot.gov.my/en/resources/rail-statistic

    [4] http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/05/31/prasarana-and-scomi-now-clash-over-the-third-supplemental-contract/

    [5] Daily ridership figures were obtained from the Ministry of Transportation (http://www.mot.gov.my/en/resources/yearly-statistic)

    [6] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/07/17/najib-mrt-lrt-and-monorail-fares-to-be-50-pct-off-until-merdeka/

    [7] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/the-cheat-sheet-for-klang-valleys-newest-ride-the-mrt-sbk#Ct5sTSYz88V9Umtl.97

  • Najib must explain the lack of increase in ridership on the rail system in the Klang Valley despite billions spent on the LRT extension, the MRT and the KTM Komuter Double Tracking projects

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 5th of October 2017

    Najib must explain the lack of increase in ridership on the rail system in the Klang Valley despite billions spent on the LRT extension, the MRT and the KTM Komuter Double Tracking projects

    There are some who wants to present the title of ‘Father of Public Transportation Modernization’ to Prime Minister Najib Razak because of the billions of RM poured into the one and only BRT line in Sunway, LRT extension, the new MRT line and the KTM Komuter Klang Valley Double Tracking (KVDT) upgrade.[1] But the reality is that despite the billions of RM poured into these large public transportation rail projects, the overall ridership for the LRT, the monorail and the KTM Komuter has not increased significantly over the past 2 years. As the figures below will show, Najib’s administration should be ashamed that they have spent so much money on these projects with so little benefit to the rakyat.


    Source: Ministry of Transportation[2]

    Figure 1 above shows the average daily ridership figures for the Kelana Jaya LRT line, the Ampang LRT line, the KL Monorail and the KTM Komuter on a quarterly basis from Q1 2014 to Q2 2017. According to these figures, which are provided by the Ministry of Transportation, the daily ridership of the Kelana Jaya LRT line, the Ampang LRT line, the KTM Komuter and the KL Monorail in Q2 2017 are less than the daily ridership figures for Q2 2015, just before the launch of the Sunway BRT. For example, the daily ridership of the popular Kelana Jaya LRT was 228,763 in Q2 2015 but had dropped to 217,383 in Q2 2017 despite the opening of the Sunway BRT in 2015, the LRT extension in 2016 and Phase 1 of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT line in 2017.

    The RM634 million Sunway BRT was launched in June 2015[3]. The daily ridership figures were 11,295 and 12,372 in June and July 2015 respectively when the service was free. The ridership figure then plunged to 4,616 in August 2015 when fares were introduced which cost, on average, RM1 per km for a 5.4km BRT route.[4] The high fares charged were even critiqued by the Sunway chairman, Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah.[5]

    The RM8 billion LRT Extension was launched on the 30th of June 2016 (end of Q2 2016) and it connects the Kelana Jaya and the Ampang LRT lines.[6] While the opening of the LRT extension seems to have boosted the daily ridership figure for the Kelana Jaya line from 210,739 in Q2 2016 to 220,714 in Q3 2016, the daily ridership figure for the Ampang line actually dropped from 166,984 in Q2 2016 to 159,213 in Q3 2016.

    The opening of Phase 1 of the MRT Line 1 from Sungai Buloh to Semantan also did not increase the traffic for the KTM Komuter which connects to the MRT Line 1 in Sungai Buloh. In fact, the KTM Komuter daily ridership of 106,337 in Q3 2016 (before the opening of Phase 1 of the MRT Line 1) was higher than the daily ridership of 104,978 in Q2 2017 (approximately 6 months after the opening of Phase 1 of the MRT line).

    As for the KL Monorail, its daily ridership has experienced a steady decline from a high of 71,623 in Q4 2014 to a low of 48,202 in Q2 2017.

    Figure 2 above shows the daily ridership of the KLIA Transit, the KLIA Express and Phase 1 of the MRT-SBK Line 1 which was opened in December 2016.

    For the KLIA Transit, the daily ridership of 17,419 in Q2 2017 is far lower than the 20,129 daily ridership in Q4 2014. As for the KLIA Express, the daily ridership of 6,071 in Q2 2017 is also lower than the daily ridership peak of 9,847 in Q3 2015. The daily ridership of MRT Line 1 dropped from 16,368 in Q1 2017 to 12,622 in Q2 2017 once the novelty of taking the MRT wore off and the free one-month trial period was over.

    What explains the decrease in overall ridership despite the opening of the Sunway BRT, the LRT extension and the MRT Line 1?

    One of the main explanations is that the cost of taking these trains is not necessarily cheaper than driving. For example, as this letter writer in the Star shared, it costs him RM9 for a trip from Puchong to Sunway via the Sunway BRT or RM18 for a return trip. Throw in the parking at the LRT station (RM4) and fuel costs, this writer estimated that it would cost him RM25 per day to take the LRT compared to RM10 to drive (including toll costs and free parking at his office).[7]

    Daily ridership on both LRT lines, the monorail and the KTM Komuter dropped significantly from Q4 2015 to Q1 2016 because of a significant fare hike for the LRT as well as the KTM Komuter. Daily ridership figures have yet to recover from this steep fare hike despite the subsequent opening of the LRT extension in the middle of 2016.

    When the Q3 2017 daily ridership figures are released later this year, I expect there to be a significant increase in the passenger numbers for the LRT and MRT because of the half price ‘offer’ during the SEA games leading up to Merdeka on the 31st of August 2017 and also the opening of the full MRT Line 1 from Sungai Buloh all the way to Kajang. We should take these ridership figures with a pinch of salt. A more realistic gauge of daily ridership would be the Q4 2017 figures when the half price discounts have been taken away and the people can more accurately estimate to see if it is worthwhile for them to take public rail transportation instead of using their own vehicles. As we have seen in the examples above, ridership figures decrease significantly once the ‘free’ or ‘discount’ period is over.

    The other reasons why the public are reluctant to use public rail transportation have to do with timing and reliability. For example, it takes someone approximately 30 minutes to drive from Puchong to Sunway but it would take about an hour for the same trip using the LRT and the BRT. Issues of reliability continue to plague the KTM Komuter despite the RM1.4 billion allocated for the Klang Valley Double Track (KVDT) upgrade project. Derailment and delays decreases the reliability of the KTM Komuter which also discourages potential passengers from abandoning their cars in favour of rail transportation.[8]

    It is all fine and good when the Prime Minister together with his cabinet ministers and other VIPs take the BRT, the LRT and the MRT when they are first launched with great fanfare and publicity. But after the VIPs are gone and after the ‘free’ or ‘discounted’ fare periods have expired, we do not see passengers voting with their feet by switching to public rail transportation. To really be a ‘game changer’, PM Najib must make public rail transportation affordable (for example, by introducing a monthly train and bus pass for let’s say, RM100), reliable (avoid delays and disruptions) and accessible (solving the last mile connectivity problem). PM Najib only deserves the title of ‘Father of Public Transportation Modernization’ if and only if these issues are resolved. After all, spending money on these projects is the easy part. Getting people to take the trains and buses is another story altogether.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/mp-najib-is-father-of-public-transport-modernisation#cYma94wm6QXVy4ZW.97

    [2] http://www.mot.gov.my/en/resources/rail-statistic

    [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRT_Sunway_Line

    [4] http://penanginstitute.org/v3/files/research_papers/Penang-Institute-Sunway-BRT-Writeup-JonathanFong-OKM-Feb2016vFinal.pdf

    [5] http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2016/04/29/steep-fares-keep-passengers-away-lukewarm-response-to-brt-service-even-during-peak-hours/

    [6] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/06/30/new-lrt-line-from-putra-heights-begins-today/

    [7] http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2016/08/23/why-the-lrt-isnt-worth-the-switch/

    [8] http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/08/22/dap-wants-transport-minister-to-answer-for-frequent-ktm-delays/

  • Battle for Selangor Part 3

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 29th of September, 2017

    Battle for Selangor Part 3

    In this concluding part on the “Battle for Selangor” in GE14, I analyse the projected outcomes for the state seats in Selangor under three possible scenarios which are summarized in Table 1 below.

    Table 1: Projected Change Malay, Chinese, Indian and Other support in GE14 (compared to GE13)

    I assume that PAS (and its coalition partners) will contest in ALL 56 state seats in Selangor. In the seats which PAS contested in for GE13, I project that the level of Malay support for PAS will drop by 15%, 20% and 25% respectively in GE14. This means that if PAS obtained 40% of the Malay vote in GE13, its share of Malay support will drop by 25%, 20% and 15% respectively under Scenarios 1, 2 and 3. I also project that PAS’ non-Malay support will take a tremendous dive – by 80% among Chinese voters, by 60% among Indian voters and by 50% among Other voters.

    In the seats contested by the DAP and PKR in GE13, I project that PAS will win 25%, 20% and 15% of Malay support in Scenarios 1, 2 and 3. I project a negligible level of non-Malay support (at around 1%) for PAS in GE14.

    Are these realistic projections? Keep in mind that PAS’ Malay support in the Sungai Besar by-election dropped by 10% from 40% to 30%. Given the inclusion of BERSATU in Pakatan Harapan (PH), the strengthening of the PH leadership and the breaking off of ties between PAS and PKR, it is not unrealistic to think that Malay support for PAS will drop further in GE14. And in the case of a Malay tsunami, which is what is projected in Scenario 3, it is not unrealistic to see many PAS and even UMNO supporters throwing their support behind PH in GE14.

    The non-Malay support for PAS in the Sungai Besar by-election was negligible. There is nothing which PAS has done since this by-election which can convince non-Malay voters to keep supporting PAS in GE14.

    There are many indications that overall Malay support for the BN will fall in GE14. The impact of the GST and the increase in the cost of living have been felt by rural and urban voters. Support for Najib among the Malays is far lower than what it was in GE13. BERSATU, led by Tun Dr. Mahathir and Tan Sri Muhyiddin, have allowed PH to venture into UMNO strongholds that were previously closed to the opposition coalition.

    The question now is not if the Malay support for the BN will drop but by how much. In Scenario 1, I project a loss of 5% Malay support for the BN, a not unrealistic figure given that voters in Selangor are more ‘sophisticated’ (a point I argued in Part 1 of the “Battle for Selangor”) and hence, more aware of not just the impact of the GST but also other issues to do with good governance such as 1MDB and FELDA. The Malay support for the BN remains unchanged compared to GE13 in Scenario 1.

    In Scenario 2, I project a slightly larger decrease in the Malay support for the BN – a fall of 8% – and a smaller drop in non-Malay support of 3%. And in Scenario 3, which my colleague Liew Chin Tong has termed a ‘Malay tsunami’, the Malay support for the BN falls by 10% (with a drop of 5% support among non-Malays).

    What are the projected outcomes under Scenarios 1, 2 and 3? The results are summarized in Table 2 below.

    Table 2: Projected BN and PH state seats won under Scenarios 1, 2 and 3

    In Scenario 1, PH is projected to win 35 out of 56 state seats. Even though this is less than the 44 state seats Pakatan Rakyat won in GE13, it is still sufficient for PH to form the next state government in Selangor.

    In Scenario 2, which is a mini-Malay tsunami, PH is projected to win 43 state seats, one seat short of what PR achieved in GE13.

    In Scenario 3, which is the Malay tsunami scenario, PH is projected to win 50 state seats.

    I want to highlight three points from this analysis.

    Firstly, the projections clearly show that PAS cannot prevent PH from forming the next government in Selangor, even under the most pessimistic scenario (from PH’s perspective), which is Scenario 1.

    Secondly, the projections show that PAS will be left with no seats after GE14 in Selangor. The reason is simple. PAS will be left with almost no non-Malay support which is important in a multi-racial state like Selangor where non-Malays comprise 49% of all voters. And it cannot win enough Malay support on its own to win any state seats.

    Thirdly, PH is in the best position to capture the political dividends in the event of a Malay tsunami. PH can campaign credibly to change the policies of the federal government which are unpopular with the rakyat. PAS cannot campaign in the same manner. PAS cannot even say that it will be the kingmaker in Selangor because it is not likely to win even a single seat. With a strategic campaign, PH can reap the benefits of a possible Scenario 3 by winning more state seats than even the 2013 general elections in GE14.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

  • Battle for Selangor Part 2

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 27th of September, 2017

    Battle for Selangor Part 2

    In Part 1 of the “Battle for Selangor”, I showed evidence from past elections on how voters in Selangor are very quick to punish what they perceive to be ineffective governments and how they are quick to reward parties which can deliver good governance.

    In Part 2 of the “Battle for Selangor”, I discuss the political circumstances which can limit the amount of damage PAS can do in three corner fights in the upcoming general election.

    A common perception among political observers and analysts is that contests involving BN, Pakatan Harapan (PH) and PAS will likely result in a victory for the BN. The Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections, which were contested by the BN, PAS and AMANAH and which were won by the BN with increased majorities (compared to GE2013) are often used as evidence that three corner fights will be in the BN’s favour.

    I do not dispute that straight fights against the BN would be the ideal situation for the opposition. But I want to use the following three points to show that PH can still win Selangor even in the presence of three corner fights involving PAS.

    (i) The political landscape has changed since the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections.

    The political stakes for voters in by-elections are not very high. Voters know that they are not deciding the future of a state or federal government. Local issues become more important than state and national issues. Voter turnout is also significantly lower than in general elections. The fact that the BN would perform better in these by-elections is thus not that surprising.

    The political landscape has changed significantly since the two by-elections in June 2016. Back then, BERSATU had not been formed yet. Tun Dr. Mahathir and Tan Sri Muhyiddin had not been sacked by UMNO. PAS had not yet broken off ties with PKR. BERSATU had not yet joined Pakatan Harapan. The Pakatan Harapan leadership line-up had not been established. More than a year after the two by-elections, it is increasingly clear to voters that there are now two distinct and broad-based coalitions which can form the next federal government and the state government in Selangor. PAS does not feature in either coalition.

    In the context of a general election where voters have to choose who forms the next state and federal governments, it would be a mistake to assume that all those voters who supported PAS in past elections would continue to support PAS in the next general election.

    The more we make the next elections a stark choice between supporting a BN government led by a world renowned kleptocrat and a historic opportunity to change to an alternative coalition with a proven track record of governing two states for two terms, the likelier it is that more voters will not want to ‘waste’ their vote on a third-party candidate which has no chance of forming the government at either the state or federal level.

    In general elections prior to 1990, in seats featuring two or more opposition parties, voters never had to face the choice between an opposition coalition that could form the next state or federal government. In a contest featuring BN, DAP and PAS, pro-opposition voters did not have to think of whether DAP or PAS would form the next state or federal government. In GE14, this choice is now available to pro-opposition voters given that there is a real chance that PH could win Putrajaya and very likely retain control of the Selangor state government.

    As such, past assumptions about how voters would vote in a multi-corner fight must be revised.

    (ii) PAS’ political success in Selangor is relatively recent

    One of the reasons political observers tend to overestimate PAS’ overall support in Selangor is because of the 15 state and 4 parliament seats won by PAS in GE13. But they forget that PAS’ electoral success in Selangor is a relatively recent phenomenon.

    According to Table 1 below, PAS did not win a single parliament seat in Selangor from 1990 to 2004. Even in the 1999 Reformasi elections where PAS emerged as the largest opposition party in parliament and won control of the Terengganu state government (and retained the Kelantan state government), it only managed to win 4 state seats in Selangor namely the Sungai Besar state seat in Sabak Bernam, the Sungai Burung state seat in Tanjung Karang, the Gombak Setia state seat in Gombak and the Kajang state seat in Hulu Langat.[1]

    Even in the 2008 and 2013 general elections, PAS only managed to win 52.9% and 54.3% of the popular vote respectively in the parliament seats it contested and 49.5% and 54.9% of the popular vote respectively in the state seats it contested. And as we shall see in the next point, a large proportion of this support was from the non-Malay voters which are likely to abandon PAS in droves in GE14.

    Of course, PAS can respond by saying that DAP and PKR’s electoral success in Selangor is also a relatively recent phenomenon. And they would be right in saying this. The difference is that DAP and PKR are part of a larger political coalition, Pakatan Harapan, which has a legitimate chance of forming the next federal government and are in a strong position to retain the Selangor government. On the other hand, for the first time since 1986, PAS is in a political isolated position (putting aside the stillborn Gagasan Sejahtera coalition) with no chance of forming either the state or federal government on its own.[2]

    (iii) PAS did not win a majority of Malay votes in Selangor in GE2013

    Perhaps the best evidence of PAS’ strength in Selangor can be seen its performance in the 2013 general elections where it won a historic 15 out of the 20 state seats it contested in. Table 3 below shows the estimated level of support for PAS by Malay, Chinese and Indian voters in the 15 state seats it won in GE2013.[3]

    From Table 3, what is clear is that PAS failed to win more than 50% of Malay votes in all except one of the state seats it won (the exception is N26 Bangi). The average Malay support for PAS in the seats it won is approximately 40%. PAS managed to win 14 out of 15 state seats in Selangor in GE2013 because of the high non-Malay support it received – an estimated 88% of Chinese and 68% of Indian support in these seats.

    I would make the argument that PAS Malay support in newly won seats in GE2013 such as Seri Serdang, Paya Jaras and Morib, was largely due to the fact that it was part of a larger opposition coalition rather than because of its grassroot strength and support. Once PAS is no longer part of an opposition coalition, not only would its non-Malay support drop precipitously, I would argue that in many areas, PAS support among the Malay community would also fall.

    Challenge for Pakatan Harapan (PH) in Selangor

    There is a phenomenon that has been documented in political science called Duverger’s law which states that in first past the post single member constituency electoral systems which is used in countries like Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States, voters tend to focus their votes on two parties (or two coalitions, in the case of Malaysia).[4] In other words, most voters tend not to want to ‘waste’ their votes on third party candidates because they know that these candidates have little chance of winning the seat. This does not mean that third party candidates will get no votes but that they will get relatively few votes.

    PH can expedite the move towards two coalition competition in Selangor by taking the following steps.

    Firstly, it can and should make it clear to voters that PAS will not be part of the Selangor state government after GE14 regardless of the outcome. This will provide a further incentive for pro-opposition voters to choose PH over PAS especially if they do not want the BN to recapture the Selangor state government.

    Secondly, PH must actively court fence sitters and PAS sympathisers to continue to vote for a PH government in Selangor in GE14. As I’ve argued in Part 1 of the “Battle for Selangor”, many voters in Selangor do not have very strong party loyalties. Many of the voters who voted for PAS in GE13, especially the Malay voters, can be persuaded to switch their votes to another party in PH on the basis that PH can form the next government in Selangor and in Putrajaya.

    Thirdly, PH must focus its attention on comparing and contrasting itself to the BN and not go all out to attack PAS. The main political adversary for PH in Selangor and in other states is still the BN. If PH is too obsessed with attacking PAS, this will inevitably alienate many PAS sympathizers.

    At the end of the day, given Azmin Ali’s popularity as the current Menteri Besar of Selangor, especially among the Malay community, there is no reason why he cannot lead PH in Selangor to a convincing victory in GE14 even if PH has to go up against the BN and PAS in some seats including his own parliamentary seat of Gombak and his state seat of Bukit Antarabangsa.

    In Part 3 of this series, I will show the possible electoral outcomes for GE14 under different assumptions of how many votes PAS can obtain in the context of three corner fights. By showing these results, I hope that I can convince some of the sceptics that despite having 3 corner fights, PH can still regain control of the Selangor state government.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] This was prior to the 2003 delimitation exercise which reconfigured many of the seats which PAS won to make it more difficult for them to retain these seats in the 2004 general elections.

    [2] PAS was part of the Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (APU) coalition with Semangat 46 in 1990 and 1995, the Barisan Alternative in 1999 and 2004 and Pakatan Rakyat after the 2008 general elections.

    [3] The Indian support could not be calculated in all seats because not all seats have a large enough % of Indian voters.

    [4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duverger%27s_law

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