KUALA LUMPUR – Claims by the opposition that the Barisan Nasional may lose as many as 45 parliamentary seats in the next general election were pooh-poohed by some political analysts, who say it is still too early to speculate which way the votes will go.
On Saturday, former deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had said that a simulation conducted by “experts” appointed by him forecast that 45 BN-held seats would fall if there was a four per cent swing in votes to the opposition.
According to Universiti Malaya lecturer Asso Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi, the simulation was, apparently, conducted four months ago and was based on the 13th general election (GE13) results.
“In order to conduct such a study (or simulation), the timing is very important. Conducting it two or three months before an election will be more accurate (and also reflect the actual sentiments on the ground),” he said.
Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School for Social Science Studies lecturer Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian also agreed that any polls simulation or study conducted at this juncture was too preliminary to gauge the actual sentiments of the voters and how the various political parties would perform in the next GE. The current term of the Dewan Rakyat ends in July 2018.
“It’s important to do it (simulation) three to four months before the election. This is because issues that crop up during that period are likely to influence the voting pattern,” he said.
Sivamurugan said any polls analysis or study carried out by either BN or the opposition should also include a comparison between the GE12 (which was held in 2008) and GE13 (2013) results.
“Some of the seats BN had lost in the so-called political tsunami of 2008 were recaptured in GE13, while some of the seats it won in GE12 fell in the hands of the opposition in GE13,” he said.
Awang Azman, meanwhile, said regardless of how the simulation was conducted, it was essential to understand that voter sentiment was usually influenced by issues that were highlighted closer to the period before an election.
“The simulation quoted by Muhyiddin was done based on GE13 results, with the (parliamentary) seats being categorised as black (constituencies won by BN with a thin majority), grey (won with a majority of between 40 and 50 votes) and white (won with a comfortable margin).
“However, there was a change after GE13… a few by-elections have been held since then, which saw BN retaining its seats and even wresting the Teluk Intan seat from DAP,” he observed.
In GE13, the DAP retained the Teluk Intan parliamentary seat with a majority of 7,313 votes but during a by-election in May 2014, BN captured the seat with a 238-vote majority after gaining a 7.96 per cent swing in votes from the opposition.
FRAGMENTED OPPOSITION FRONT
Awang Azman also pointed out that Muhyiddin’s simulation failed to take into consideration the fact that the opposition front was currently fragmented, with a major opposition party like PAS no longer part of the pact that contested in GE13.
He said PAS’ participation in any contest in a constituency would have an impact on the polls outcome.
“Take, for instance, the twin parliamentary by-elections in Sungai Besar (in Selangor) and Kuala Kangsar (Perak), which were held in June. The opposition votes were split between PAS and its splinter party Amanah (Parti Amanah Negara) and this worked in the favour of BN, which ended up retaining both seats with a higher majority.
“In GE13, BN won the Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar seats with a majority of only 1,082 and 399 votes respectively,” he said.
(The Kuala Kangsar parliamentary seat was won by Datin Mastura Mohd Yazid, the widow of Datuk Wan Mohammad Khair-il Anuar Wan Ahmad who perished in a helicopter crash in Sebuyau, Sarawak on May 5, with a bigger majority of 6,969-vote compared to her late husband’s 1,082-vote majority.)
(Budiman Mohd Zohdi, who is the Sungai Panjang state assemblyman, retained the Sungai Besar seat which was formerly held by Tan Sri Noriah Kasnon who was also killed in the same helicopter crash, with a bigger majority of 9,191 votes compared with Noriah’s razor-thin 399-vote majority in the GE13.)
While some have argued that by-election results do not usually reflect the overall mood of a general election, still their outcome cannot possibly be ignored as they provide some insights into the current voting trend.
Pointing to the Rompin parliamentary by-election in May 2015, Awang Azman said BN had succeeded in retaining the seat, although with a reduced majority.
“But party leaders had attributed it to the lower voter turnout and less excitement among voters,” he added.