Negeri Sembilan seen to be in unity government’s bag, but Bersatu says upset still possible
KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 — The so-called “green wave” that propelled Perikatan Nasional (PN) to unexpected success in the 15th general election (GE15) is unlikely to manifest in the Negeri Sembilan poll this year, according to observers.
Instead, the prediction is closer to the 14th general election when both PAS and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia — the main parties in PN — won in none of the 36 state seats.
Bersatu was then still part of Pakatan Harapan, but was outperformed by even Parti Amanah Negara, which took three seats that year, while PAS lost in all 27 constituencies it contested.
PH secured 20 seats on the way to winning the state while Barisan Nasional, which was still a rival then, won the remaining 16.
Negeri Sembilan Umno liaison chief Datuk Seri Jalaluddin Alias said PH and BN effectively won the entire state, and predicted that PN would not be a threat despite speculation that it could be a serious contender.
“In Negeri Sembilan, no Opposition party succeeded in becoming the people’s representative in the 36 constituencies of the state legislative assembly,” Jalaluddin told Malay Mail when contacted, referring to PN.
“Thus, so far, we do not see competition from PN in terms of their services to the people in the state,” he added.
Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Jalaluddin Alias arrives at the WTC Kuala Lumpur November 19, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Jalaluddin said that while BN and PH, now allies in the federal government, have proven track records in the state, the PN parties were only coming to play up anti-establishment sentiments.
When asked which seat he felt could be challenging to hold, the Jelebu MP said the state election — one of six expected in July — would be unprecedented as BN and PH would be contesting as allies instead of fierce rivals.
The election would serve as a benchmark for how well the two coalitions have explained their new cooperation to their grassroots and Malaysians in general, and how consistent the state and federal governments have been, Jalaluddin said.
PH and BN had been fierce rivals right until GE15, when the two formed an unlikely alliance to prevent PN from forming the federal government.
In the November general election, the “green wave” — named after the colour of Islamist PAS — gave PN 74 parliamentary seats despite the coalition being written off as non-starters.
While it was believed the same phenomenon could still be present during the state elections this year, Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said PAS was unlikely to reproduce it in states like Negeri Sembilan where there were more non-Malays.
“It’s the Malay votes that are still in the balance. If Selangor, the ‘green wave’ could be Noh Omar at least, but PN in Negeri Sembilan don’t have this factor,” he said referring to the former Selangor Umno chief.
“PN in Negeri Sembilan doesn’t have an icon to attract the Malay voters,” Azmi told Malay Mail when contacted.
BN also has a prominent local leader in the form of Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, a former menteri besar of the state who could appeal to its Malay voters, Azmi said.
When asked if former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin could sway things for PN, Azmi said it was unlikely as the former Rembau MP has been non-committal towards the Opposition coalition.
In January, Umno sacked Khairy and Noh in a purge of dissidents in the party.
If any Negeri Sembilan seat were vulnerable to PN, University of Malaya (UM) Centre for Democracy and Election Studies socio-political analyst Associate Professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi said it would be those marginally won by either PH or BN in 2018.
But with coalitions not contesting against each other time around, these should be easily retained by the incumbent party, he said.
“Hence, based on this justification, a ‘green wave’ will not occur in Negeri Sembilan.
“PN is better off channelling their focus on other states like Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and parts of rural Selangor,” Awang Azman said when contacted.
Momentum for upset
Disagreeing with the dim prospects of his coalition, however, Negeri Sembilan Bersatu state secretary Mohd Nazree Mohd Yunus claimed there was a seismic shift in voter sentiment in GE15 that would carry over into the state election.
“If we look at the GE15 results — based on the breakdown of voters according to state constituencies — we managed to win votes from three seats (Lenggeng, Bagan Pinang and Labu). Votes in eight [other] state seats, we placed second highest.
“So, this a total of 11 seats and what we need is at least 19 seats [to form the state government]; it is not impossible for us to add another eight seats, because we expect to see changes in voting patterns, be it among the Malay, Chinese or Indian voters, in 24 Malay majority seats,” Mohd Nazree said when contacted.
Lenggeng, a state constituency under Seremban is 84.9 per cent Bumiputera, 10.6 per cent Chinese and 4.1 per cent Indians. Bagan Pinang, a state seat under Port Dickson, is 79.3 Bumiputera, 10 per cent Chinese and 10.5 per cent Indians. As for Labu, a state constituency under Rasah, its voters were 77.7 per cent Bumiputera, 9.8 per cent Chinese, and 11.3 per cent Indians.
Mohd Nazree, who lost to Umno’s Mohamad in Rembau during GE15, said Ampangan, Sikamat, Kota, Paroi, Juasseh and even Pilah were among state constituencies that could see upsets during this year’s poll.
“In Pilah, if there are changes in support, for example from the Chinese voters, that is a state seat that could be good for us to take,” he added.
With the “green wave” already being discounted, Mohd Nazree said this would be offset by a “wave of the people”, especially Malays concerned with issues of integrity and corruption.
Voters of all ethnicities could see that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s government included those on trial for corruption and accepting even those already convicted, he said in an apparent reference to Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his predecessor, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Aside from PH’s decision to join forces with parties rejected by Malaysians — another reference to Umno — the Rembau Bersatu chief said voters of all races could see the unity government has not been dealing with the cost-of-living crisis as effectively as previously promised.
“We have also shown that in the states we won under the PN, such as Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Perlis, there are occurrences of no racial issues.
“Those who talk about the green wave may be particularly afraid of PAS, in an imperial sense, in fact there are no racial or religious tensions in those four states,” he added.
Political analyst Mohammad Tawfik Yaakub said if Khairy Jamaluddin contests in Negeri Sembilan, he is an influential political warlord that could weaken Umno’s position in the state. — Picture by Azneal Ishak.
Protest votes a threat
While there appeared little likelihood of a genuine “green wave” in Negeri Sembilan, there was the risk of protest votes from PH and BN supporters who disagreed with the two coalitions teaming up.
Political analyst from UM’s department of political science, public administration and development studies Mohammad Tawfik Yaakub said this protest could simulate the “green wave” in Malay majority seats.
“The challenge that PH will face will be to get more Malay support in Negeri Sembilan, as the shift in Malay support from PH-BN to PN is happening, especially in rural seats that are fixed deposits to Umno in Negeri Sembilan.
“If Khairy contests in Negeri Sembilan, he is an influential political warlord that could weaken Umno’s position in the state,” Tawfik said when contacted.
Tawfik said seats that were won with majorities smaller than 1,000 votes in 2018 were those that could be picked off, such as Juasseh, Lenggeng and Linggi.
Negeri Sembilan along with Kedah, Kelantan, Penang, Selangor and Terengganu must all hold state elections this year after they chose not to dissolve their state assemblies together with Parliament for GE15 last year.