East Coast states vote as predicted

SELANGOR, Negri Sembilan, Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah, and Penang have voted. While each state is distinct, each portrays a multifaceted sociopolitical terrain.

Although the primary focus is usually on the results, it’s important to acknowledge that elections have far-reaching effects beyond what is immediately visible. 

Emir Research projected a clean sweep for PN-PAS in Terengganu. In Kelantan, PN-PAS was expected to secure at least 38 of the 45 seats.

The election results closely mirrored the projections: PN-PAS took all 32 Terengganu seats and secured 43 out of 45 seats in Kelantan. Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional managed to secure only two seats in Kelantan, showcasing a stark difference in voter preference.


In Terengganu, PN-PAS achieved a historical clean sweep of 32 state seats. The victory is not only a clear mandate from the electorate but also a sign of its unwavering support. The Terengganu administration now finds itself without opposition.

Terengganu Umno lost all 27 seats it contested, including the 10 seats it held – Kuala Besut, Jerteh, Hulu Besut, Permaisuri, Langkap, Batu Rakit, Seberang Takir, Telemung, Bukit Besi, and Kijal.

Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar’s leadership might have been a contributing factor in PN-PAS’s victory. A recent Merdeka Center survey showed that 67% of Malays in Terengganu were satisfied with the menteri besar’s performance.

Terengganu saw the highest voter turnout among the six states, registering an impressive rate of 74.79%.


Seven state seats belonging to BN (Kok Lanas, Gual Ipoh, Bukit Bunga, Ayer Lanas, Kuala Balah, Nenggiri, and Paloh) were lost to PN-PAS coalition.

Notably, the Kota Lama seat held by PAS for years was won by PH-BN through Hafidzah Mustakim of Amanah by a majority of only 202 votes. 

BN’s sole win came through incumbent candidate Mohd Syahbuddin Hashim in Galas. BN had fielded 31 candidates in the state.

In contrast to Terengganu, Kelantan experienced the lowest voter turnout rate among the six states, at only 61% participation, likely because voter fatigue.

Similarities between Terengganu and Kelantan

Terengganu and Kelantan are known as “Malay belt” states with a 97.3% and 95.5% Malay population, respectively, according to the 2020 Population and Housing Census of Malaysia 2020.

Political dynamics based on historical voting patterns and sentiments in Terengganu and Kelantan have played a role in establishing the electoral environment in both states. 

In Terengganu, the 2013 state elections were a closely contested battle, with PAS obtaining 15 seats and BN, 17. This distribution suggested a relatively balanced political landscape. The 2018 elections, however, saw a significant shift as PAS surged forward with 22 seats, while BN’s seats dwindled to 10. This was a shift favouring PAS’s ideology and approach.  The PN-PAS coalition’s clean sweep of all 32 seats indicates unequivocal endorsement of its leadership. 

In Kelantan, the data speak of a parallel political transformation. 

Kelantan has consistently gravitated towards PAS due to the party’s strong connection with cultural and religious traditions, making the state a “safe deposit” for PAS in every election.

In the 2013 state elections, PAS commanded 31 seats while BN managed 12. PAS’s dominance was further cemented in the 2018 elections, where it won 37 seats while BN’s representation dropped to a mere eight.

This month’s elections in Kelantan showcased an even more pronounced consolidation of support for the PN-PAS coalition, as it secured 43 out of 45 seats. The remaining two seats went to PH-BN.

This landslide victory reaffirmed the coalition’s strong connection with the voters and indicated an enduring trust in its leadership and vision.

Voting sentiment on the east coast region is deeply intertwined with regional particularities, from economic welfare to cultural preservation. Most of the voters are conservative and less likely to take risks, which means they are more focused on religion and less affected by national issues. 

Moving forward

A noteworthy lesson emerges from the elections for PH-BN.

The significance of forging meaningful connections cannot be overstated. As both Terengganu and Kelantan lean towards conservative views, it is imperative for PH-BN to establish personal touch points with the east coast communities. The strategy should transcend policy advocacy while resonating deeply with the people’s values and goals. PH-BN must make an extra effort to go above and beyond to form genuine and meaningful bonds with the people.

Ultimately, the electoral spectacle signalled a period of transition, anticipation, and opportunity. 

Now that the elections are over, it is time for the leaders on all political aisles to roll up their sleeves and deliver the best results to the people.

The people have entrusted their representatives to fulfil the pledges laid out in their manifestos. By prioritising the welfare and progress of their constituents, these leaders should strive to steer the region toward greater prosperity and harmony.

In the political tapestry of our nation, Terengganu and Kelantan stand out as vibrant threads, each woven with its unique story and aspirations. It is hoped that as we move forward, political leaders could seize the lessons learnt, address the challenges posed, and weave a future marked by unity, progress, and a commitment to the betterment of the east coast communities. – August 21, 2023.

* Farah Natasya is research assistant at Emir Research.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.