Melaka residents believe 'political frogs' caused Pakatan Harapan's defeat in state election

Most interviewees think Barisan Nasional will continue to win in the next election.

Jean Chien Tay | December 22, 2021, 03:36 PM

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Just three years after Barisan Nasional's (BN) loss in Melaka in the 2018 Malaysian General Election, giving way to Pakatan Harapan (PH), the coalition recently returned to power in the state.

In a landslide victory, BN won 75 per cent of the seats in the state assembly.

It is the second change of government in two years, as the "Sheraton Move" in 2020 also caused the state government to change hands from the PH coalition to Perikatan Nasional (PN), the coalition led by ex-Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Similar to the shift in affiliation which saw PN take over Melaka in 2020, the state assembly was forced to dissolve on Oct. 5, after four state assemblymen triggered the collapse of the PN state government by withdrawing their support.

As a result, a snap election was called, and multiple media outlets referred to the situation as a "political crisis" for the state.

Winning 21 out of 28 seats, BN was able to form the state government without entering into negotiations or forming a pact with another party or coalition.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's coalition -- PH -- suffered a heavy defeat, only managing to secure five seats as compared to the 15 seats in the 2018 election.

Anwar's party also tanked in the recent election, losing all 11 seats that they contested.

In light of the recent political development, Mothership spoke to Melaka residents to understand their sentiments towards the outcome of the state election.

Low voter turnout and "political frogs"

"O", a 29-year-old cafe owner, thought that the PH did not bring about substantial change during their rule, and that they had already lost the opportunity to show their ability to govern the state.

Jazz, a 35-year-old property sales manager, and Nor Husni Mohd Tahkim, a 51-year-old retired lecturer, shared the view that PH's downfall stemmed from the low voter turnout and poor choice of candidates in some constituencies.

The voter turnout for the recent election was 65.86 per cent, a significant drop from the 84.52 per cent recorded in 2018, according to the New Straits Times.

Jazz was also unhappy with the PH's acceptance of "political frogs or kataks" -- those who hop from one party to another.

Meanwhile, Husni said the coalition made the mistake of appointing candidates who were "insincere" about their roles and were more inclined towards BN instead.

Voters "lost confidence" in PH

Jazz added that the PH coalition lost voters' confidence after roping in two of the four assemblymen that defected from BN, even though public opinion was not in favour of such a move.

23-year-old Benjamin, who's an engineer, said the results were "not surprising", as he observed that public sentiments towards the PH had already been negative prior to the elections.

Looking at their national policies, Benjamin also felt that the PH did not really fulfil some of their promises, such as the promise to abolish highway toll charges.

Changes under the PH administration

Despite PH's loss, the residents did mention some positive aspects about their time in government.

In terms of changes that were observed during PH's rule, Jazz opined that they were more "proactive" in their interactions with residents, as compared to the previous administration under the BN.

He also thought that the chief minister at the time, Adly Zahari, did not engage in "racial politics" during his tenure.

Walking the ground

As for Benjamin, he shared Jazz's opinion that PH lawmakers were seen out and about more frequently than the previous administration, adding that they had a more "hands-on" approach.

"I saw more of the assemblymen carrying out their duties in my constituency," he said.

Husni also said the PH government was "very serious" when it came to the people's welfare.

She added that the state government was "more transparent and responsible" under former chief minister Adly, and elaborated on the state policies that benefitted the people of Melaka at the time.

According to her, the state government allocated every Friday for Melaka residents to walk in and meet with relevant government agencies, including the chief minister, for any inquiries or assistance.

The PH administration also planned to provide 500 affordable houses to the poor over a period of five years, and subsidised house prices for those below the age of 35 and with a household income of less than RM4,850 (S$1,574) per month.

However, Ainul, 30, an administrative assistant, said the PH administration's tenure was "too short" to bring any real change to state legislations, and she felt that nothing much changed in her constituency during that time.

Close battle in terms of overall votes won

Despite what has been touted as a landslide victory, a closer look at the overall voting percentage paints the picture of a closer battle.

According to Malaysiakini, 38.39 per cent of voters in Melaka cast their ballots for BN, while 35.8 per cent backed the PH.

In comparison with election results from 2018, BN's vote share had increased by a mere 0.64 per cent, while PH's vote share fell sharply by 15.31 per cent.

Expectations for the new state government

In terms of their expectations for the newly-elected state government, Jazz and "O" said they had none, though "O" mentioned that he would prefer some stability in the state's politics.

Apart from that, Ainul expressed hope that political parties would consider giving more chances to youths in politics, while Benjamin said his "minimum expectation" was that the state administration would "do its job".

Husni urged the current BN government to rule the state with honesty and integrity, as she felt that the "power struggle" in the state had "victimised" the people of Melaka.

Only one respondent changed her support

Out of the five respondents, only Ainul changed her support from one coalition to another (from BN to PH), as she felt that the BN candidate in her constituency "only appeared when it was time to rally for votes".

However, her change in voting preference appeared to be against the tide, as the PN coalition managed to take the seat from PH in a five-way contest.

Policies that concerned voters

When asked about policies that she was most concerned about, Husni disclosed that economic and education policies were important to her.

Meanwhile, Jazz stressed the need to revise racial quotas in the country, which according to him, greatly affects Malaysia's property sector and education institutions.

Benjamin was in favour of the anti-hopping law to prevent politicians from changing their political affiliation for their own gains without facing any consequences.

He opined that "political frogs" were the root cause for the political turmoil during the "Sheraton Move" in 2020, as well as the recent collapse of the Melaka state government.

Most respondents think BN will continue to win

Benjamin, "O", and Jazz shared the view that the BN would likely continue to win in the next election, as the general public sentiment appears to have shifted in favour of the coalition.

However, Ainul felt that the people of Melaka would not hesitate to vote for another coalition if the new administration fails to satisfy the voters.

Additionally, Husni said the BN would continue to win if the PH continues to overlook the low degree of support from the Malay population.

Citing an analysis from the Nusantara Academy of Strategic Research, she said only 14.3 per cent of Malay voters supported the PH, as compared to 27.3 per cent during the 2018 election.

"The share of youth and middle-age voters that the PH received had dropped drastically this time round as compared to the last election," she said.

"Only 32.5 per cent and 36 per cent respectively compared to 55 per cent and 53.2 per cent in 2018."

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