Weak opposition enabling PAS rule in Terengganu, say pundits

Diyana Ibrahim

PAS’ achievements in governing Terengganu are not a point of pride, but voters prefer the Islamist party as the state opposition is not active. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, May 30, 2023.

PAS is strong in Terengganu not because of its governance, but because the opposition – comprising Umno and Pakatan Harapan (PH) – is weak, grassroots and political analysts said.

They said the opposition’s weakness in the state has allowed the Islamist party to remain unchallenged.

Ilham Centre’s executive director Hisomuddin Bakar said voter support in Terengganu is influenced by political considerations rather than PAS’ achievements in the state.

“This consideration means it will make an assessment or voting based on the political party.

“If voters want to make an assessment based on the government’s performance, then the achievement is lukewarm. There is no ‘wow’ factor,” he said.

He said PAS will defend its position in Terengganu in the state elections even though its achievements are not a point of pride.

A study conducted by Ilham Centre after the establishment of the unity government showed Malay voters’ sentiment towards Perikatan Nasional in the 2022 general election (GE) has not changed much.

“If there is any change, it depends on the popularity or influence of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim,” Hisomuddin said.

Pakatan Harapan has failed to position itself as a challenger to PAS in Terengganu, says a political pundit. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, May 30, 2023.

Barisan Nasional (BN), on the other hand, he said, is facing problems with supporters at the grassroots level who have not been able to accept the party’s cooperation with DAP and Anwar.

Hisomuddin said BN grassroots have demanded an explanation, but the coalition’s leadership has not provided one.

He said BN leaders do not pay attention to states like Terengganu and Kelantan, demoralising state machinery and further affecting fence-sitters.

“The state assembly dissolution is underway, but we haven’t seen any significant move by the opposition, including PH.

“Simply put, the opposition does not exist in Terengganu. For (PH) to get a seat during the state elections is not certain.

“This is the (PH) opposition’s own weakness… It failed to position itself as a challenger to PAS,” he said.

An Umno grassroots member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the people find PAS’ performance in the state unacceptable.

However, he said BN does not act as an opposition, leaving voters with no choice.

He said this was the scenario during the 2022 GE, when PAS won big in Terengganu.

“Umno faced too many internal issues – recycling candidates, unlikable candidates and lack of budget – which caused us to lose in GE15.

“We cannot see signs of Umno getting back up again. I don’t see any effort being done by the leaders.

“At the grassroots level, we are already disappointed with the Umno leadership that has chosen to cooperate with DAP,” he said.

He does not discount that PAS would win in Terengganu in the next GE.

BN is facing problems with its Terengganu grassroots as most are against the coalition’s cooperation with DAP and Anwar Ibrahim. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, May 30, 2023.

Outside voters are kingmakers

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia political lecturer Mazlan Ali said BN and Umno can compete with PAS in Terengganu if the voter turnout is low.

He said voters outside Terengganu are the deciding factor as BN still has great support from locally residing voters, especially in rural areas.

Local voters are unhappy with the PAS administration.

“Umno has a chance but the conditions depend on the percentage of those who turn out to vote. If there’s going to be a high turnout (80%), PAS will win.

“But if the turnout is below 50%, it is not impossible for Umno to have a chance, and it is possible (for PAS) to win in Terengganu,” he said.

PAS seized Terengganu from Umno in the 2018 GE partly because of voters enraged over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal.

The Islamist party played up the free tax issue in the Tasik Kenyir and Taman Ilmu projects, which were abandoned by the BN administration.

PAS wrested Terengganu from BN after winning 22 of the 32 assembly seats in May 2018. It had previously governed Terengganu for one term after the 1999 GE before losing to BN in 2004. – May 30, 2023.

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