Umno will lose Pahang if elections held today, survey shows

Ravin Palanisamy

Umno will lose Pahang, long regarded as a stronghold of the Malay nationalist party, to Perikatan Nasional if elections are held now, says a survey. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, April 1, 2024.

UMNO will lose Pahang, long regarded as a “safe” state for the Malay nationalist party, to Perikatan Nasional if elections are held now, a survey showed.

Ibrahim Suffian, co-founder of Merdeka Center for Opinion Research, which held the survey, said there has been a huge shift in the Malay vote after the 2022 general election

“We did an analysis in January on the voting shift in Pahang in the general election. We looked at how things have moved in 2023 against Umno.

“If elections are held (now), it will be very difficult for Umno to retain Pahang, simply because therere has been a significant swing in the number of Malay voters towards PN,” Ibrahim told The Malaysian Insight.

Umno’s weakening hold on Pahang was evident in the general election. PN, made up of PAS and Bersatu, emerged as the surprise winners in the BN stronghold state.

PN secured 17 state seats compared to BN’s 16 and Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) eight.

None of them won a simple majority of 21 seats to form the state government, leading to a BN-PH partnership, which combined had a slim 24-seat majority.

As for the federal seats in th state, PN won seven of them while Umno/BN and PH took five and two, respecitvely.

It was the first time Umno/BN had suffered such a loss in Pahang.

Ibrahim said about 65% of first-time and young Malay voters aged 18 to 22 have switched allegience to PN.

He said people in the 30 to 50 age group are also gravitating toward the opposition.

“For this particular group – the shift is because of the stresses, such as a loss of income, they experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. They also lack trust in the government. The current administration is not convincing.

“The difficulties they experienced, such as the loss of income, a depletion of savings – all that has not been resolved,” he said.

Ibrahim said the survey indicated that Malay voters in Pahang were satisfied with the Muhyiddin Yassin administration.

“The voters were thankful to the Muhyiddin administration for providing financial assistance.

“They tend to see the government as being more caring and responsive to the needs of the citizens during difficult times,” he added.

Muhyiddin was the prime minister from 2020 to 2021.

Former Pekan MP Najib Razak, while in jail for corruption, still wields considerable influence in Pahang, says an analyst. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, April 1, 2024.

Umno decline to continue

Ibrahim said Umno’s woes are likely to continue although the party is part of the unity federal and state governments.

He said the negative perception of Umno, the largest Malay party in the country, has not changed.

“People see it as a party with problematic leaders and one which is somewhat out of touch,” he said.

But Ibrahim admitted that local Pekan boy, former premier Najib Razak has significant support in the state.

Although currently serving a prison term for corrupt practices, Ibrahim said no other Umno leader could replicate Najib’s level of influence in Pahang.

“Najib’s influence in Pahang is definitely a boost for Umno. He is popular in Pahang but the current crop of leaders at the national level leading the party may be less popular than he is.

“That doesn’t help Umno to win new support,” he said.

Ibrahim said Umno’s partnership with its former nemesis DAP in PH, has also caused  support for the Malay party to dwindle.

“Pahang being a Malay-majority state, it is difficult to sell the partnership with DAP in the picture.

“You have a large number of conservative voters, whose choices in the past have been PAS or BN but now suddenly BN is in partnership with DAP,” he said.

Pahang is set to be see a by-election for the Kuala Kubu Baru state seat, which became vacant when its DAP assemblyman Lee Kee Hiong died in March. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, April 1, 2024.

Ibrahim said BN could only hope to remain in power in Pahang through an electoral pact.

“Umno cannot win outright. There is a need for a coalition partnership. The only way for Umno to keep Pahang is for BN and PH to work together. 

“If Umno has a pact, it can scrape through but it has to go into a coalition before the election or its will lose more seats in three-cornered fights,” he said.

Earlier this year, Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is a deputy prime minister, said BN would be working with PH in the next general election.

However, last month, PH secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said PH had yet to decide on a pact with BN. – April 1, 2024.

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