Selangor remains Pakatan's stronghold

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On May 5, 2013, the people of Selangor voted resoundingly for the return of the Pakatan government. Results of the recently held 13th General Elections clearly showed an increase in support for Pakatan in the most developed conurbation of Malaysia. This points Selangor out as a stronghold that the coalition must now use to strengthen itself as it prepares to govern over a long-term period, both at the state and hopefully federal level.

On May 5, 2013, the people of Selangor voted resoundingly for the return of the Pakatan government. Results of the recently held 13th General Elections clearly showed an increase in support for Pakatan in the most developed conurbation of Malaysia. This points Selangor out as a stronghold that the coalition must now use to strengthen itself as it prepares to govern over a long-term period, both at the state and hopefully federal level.

Despite the disappointment many felt over the inability to change the federal government this time around (multiple reported cases of electoral fraud notwithstanding), the victories won in many other instances are worth celebrating. Selangor, Penang and Kelantan not only maintained their state governments previously won, but also successfully increased their standings to win two-third majorities in all three states. This article will however focus specifically on outcomes in the state of Selangor.

Selangor, with its ethnic breakdown, is most reflective of the national population, and has thus been said to be a microcosm of the country. However, due to its predominantly urban skew, gains in Selangor in the 13th General Elections were not necessarily repeated in other parts of the country especially in the mainly rural belt of Kedah and Perlis.

PAS candidate Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

Pakatan won 44 of the 56 state seats in Selangor, an increase from its previous 36 (which fell to 34 during the course of its first term). It wrested 10 state seats away from its BN counterparts, but this was offset by two seats taken over by BN (Bukit Melawati and Kota Damansara).

PAS made the biggest gains by winning seven of the 10 state seats turned over to Pakatan (Sabak, Taman Templer, Dusun Tua, Seri Serdang, Paya Jaras, Morib and Tanjong Sepat), while DAP won two (Kuala Kubu Bharu and Sungai Pelek) and PKR gained one (Sementa).

At Parliament level, Pakatan took two seats, namely Pandan (won by PKR’s Rafizi Ramli with an overwhelming majority of more than 26,000 votes) and Sepang, while the controversial Kuala Selangor seat was lost by PAS’ Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad by a mere 460 votes. The latter seat is one of the 27 Parliamentary seats nationwide that Pakatan will be filing an election petition on, claiming electoral fraud that could have reversed a potential Pakatan win. The Kuala Selangor result was particularly questionable since a recount was not granted, despite the majority having formed less than four per cent of the total number of votes in the constituency.

The loss of the Kota Damansara state seat was also painful for the Pakatan coalition, since it was a result of inter-party disputes that were not ultimately resolved. Although Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) candidate Dr Nasir Hashim was eventually willing to run under the PKR flag, the delay in the decision made PAS spring a surprise by running its own candidate, creating a three-corner fight that resulted in the BN candidate winning. This is certainly a lesson to be learned, that internal seat negotiation issues among Pakatan-friendly parties ought to have been resolved quickly and firmly. A similar problem emerged in the state seat of Semenyih, which also caused both the Pakatan and PSM candidates to lose to their BN opponent.

Pakatan received 59.8% of the popular vote for Selangor’s state seats with 1.05 million votes, and 59.4% in its parliamentary seats with 1.04 million votes. With almost 60% of the vote, a two-thirds majority in the state legislative assembly, and having won 17 of the 22 parliamentary seats in the state, Pakatan received a clear mandate to lead in Selangor.

A further analysis

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, along with many other mainstream Malay newspapers, has chosen to analyse the national swing against BN as a “Chinese Tsunami”. Other analysts have however emerged stating that the results more accurately reflected an urban-rural divide rather than a Chinese-Malay one.

The two seats that changed hands from Pakatan to BN were Bukit Melawati and Kota Damansara. Bukit Melawati has a Malay majority of 57.6%, with the Chinese making up 12.1% and the Indians 29.9%, while Kota Damansara also has a strong Malay percentage at 55.8%, with the Chinese at 29.8% and the Indians at 13.8%. One might then make the argument that seats in which there was a Malay majority went to BN, but the following point suggests the opposite.

With the exception of Sementa, Kuala Kubu Bharu and Sungai Pelek (which are mixed seats), all other state seats that switched hands to Pakatan had very high Malay majorities. While Pakatan did receive a high percentage of support from the Chinese communities, Malays in Selangor showed equally strong support for Pakatan parties all round (although specific mention must be made of strong PAS support in many cases).

The next five years

In this column two months ago, I wrote what a second term would mean for Selangor and Penang, emphasising economic cooperation between Pakatan states, democratic participation in the form of local government elections and institutionalising programmes in the form of formal organisations instead of conducting ad-hoc projects with minimal long-term impact. Apart from the projects that won it great popularity, Selangor ought also to embark on immediate programmes on each of these three points.

The key issues as laid out in its manifesto still remain as pertinent as ever, namely that of housing, transportation, economics, welfare assistance and arts and culture. Much more will be needed by an urban populace whose primary concerns are of the increase in the cost of living, traffic problems and crime.

Although it is status quo between the BNfederal and Pakatan-state levels of government, Pakatan has had one term to familiarise itself with the occasionally antagonistic working relationship between the two. Having a stronger mandate to govern, however, will allow civil servants on both sides to be more willing to work with the Pakatan government. A slightly weaker BN federal government should also encourage cooperation with the Pakatan state government.

In the final analysis, both the governments in Selangor and Penang can congratulate themselves on winning with stronger support. That said, much work still needs to go into crafting a cohesive message that targets poor, rural and Malay communities – sections of society that have limited exposure to social and alternative media messaging. The communications arm of Selangor must be greatly boosted to sell its success stories and its policies to the public.

Done effectively, and keeping long-term goals in mind, all of the above will contribute towards a stable future for Pakatan in the country’s prime state of Selangor.

Tricia Yeoh has previously worked with the Selangor state government and is now attached to a market research consultancy.



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