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

The battle for Selangor in GE14 (Part 1)

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 26th of September, 2017

The battle for Selangor in GE14 (Part 1)

It is no secret that the Barisan Nasional (BN) is desperate to win back Selangor at all costs in the upcoming general election. The reasons are obvious. Selangor is the richest state in Malaysia by economic output. Many big-ticket infrastructure projects such as the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL), the High Speed Rail (HSR), the LRT and MRT projects, water projects and new toll roads, require the approval of the Selangor state government. Having a well-governed Pakatan Harapan (PH) state government on the doorstep of Putrajaya is also a headache for the BN because voters can compare and contrast the performance of the Selangor state government with other BN state governments as well as the Federal Government.

What are the chances of the BN recapturing Selangor in GE14? The answer lies partly with the outcome of the expected three corner fights which will occur between the BN, PH and PAS. Before I go into the analysis of possible outcomes in three corner fights, it is important to understand the nature of voters in Selangor. Voters in Selangor are perhaps the most ‘sophisticated’ in the whole country and because of this, their voting patterns are also the most volatile. Let me illustrate by using the general election results from 1990 onwards.

Figure 1 below shows the level of BN support in states which have been won or are held by the opposition namely Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Penang, Perak and Selangor from 1990 to 2013.

Figure 1: BN support in Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Penang, Perak and Selangor (GE1990 to GE2013)

BN support in Selangor is the most volatile among all these frontline states. For example, the BN support in Selangor (highlighted in bold) increased from 54.8% to 72.4%, a massive spike, due to the high economic growth enjoyed by the country during the ‘East Asian’ miracle years from the early 1990s until just before the Asian economic crisis in 1997. Support for the BN in Selangor fell to 54.8% during the 1999 Reformasi elections. It then increased to 62.8% in 2004 during the Pak Lah ‘tsunami’ before falling to 43.4% in the 2008 BN backlash elections and falling to 38.4% in the 2013 GE.

Figure 2 below shows the changes in the level of BN support in these key stations from 1990 to 2013 with the figures for Selangor highlighted in bold. Figure 2 shows more clearly the level of volatility which Selangor voters exhibit from one election to another. From 1990 to 1995, BN support increased by 17.7%, the highest among all key states. BN support fell by 17.7% from 1995 to 1999, also the highest among all key states. From 2004 to 2008, BN support fell by 19.4%, the highest among all key states, which led to a change in government in Selangor.

Figure 2: Change in BN support in key states (GE1990 to GE2013)

Does the volatility shown by Selangor voters means that the BN can hope to win back Selangor based solely on its performance and leadership? This would be wishful thinking on the part of BN leaders. One of the main reasons why Selangor voters exhibit such volatility is that they are the fastest to reward good performance and also the fastest to punish bad performance. They rewarded the BN in 1995 for delivering economic growth and prosperity and they swung against the BN in 1999 because of the economic and political crisis during Reformasi (albeit not by enough for the BN to lose this state then). They swung against the BN in record numbers in 2008 because of dissatisfaction against Pak Lah due to undelivered election promises. There is nothing in BN’s track record and leadership which indicates that voters in Selangor will reward it in the next general election especially when the best the BN can do is to parade out a line-up of 3 ex-Menteri Besars, one of whom was convicted of corruption and another who was found carrying a suitcase full of cash to Australia.

The track record of the Selangor state government, while not perfect, has been positively felt by the voters in the state through many of the welfare programs under the ‘Inisiatif Peduli Rakyat’ umbrella including free medical cards for low income families and individuals and free buses in each of the districts / municipalities in the state. Investments and jobs continue to pour into Selangor. The high popularity of Selangor Menteri Besar, Azmin Ali, stands in stark contrast to that of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

A large number of the more than 2 million voters in Selangor are not originally from Selangor. Many of them move to Selangor because of better job and educational opportunities. As such, many of them are not attached to any political party i.e. they are not ‘hard-core’ BN or opposition supporters. Many of these voters also have better access to information including social and online media. They are not ‘brainwashed’ by mainstream media. Many of these voters also have higher income and education profiles compared to other states. And the number of newly registered voters is the highest in Selangor compared to other states.

All these reasons explain why most Selangor voters will vote practically i.e. by rewarding the party or coalition which promises to give them what they want namely better governance that will keep the streets clean, deliver better welfare programs, provide properly paved roads and improve the quality of life. These are also reasons why it is very possible for Pakatan Harapan (PH) to retain most of the seats which were won by Pakatan Rakyat in GE13 even in the case of three corner fights.

I will provide the evidence in Part 2 of my statement.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang