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Malaysia’s election battlegrounds

With time rapidly ticking away before the Malaysian Parliament’s term expires on June 24, the battle to woo voters ahead of the country’s 14th General Election continues.

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Updated: March 14, 2018

With time rapidly ticking away before the Malaysian Parliament’s term expires on June 24, the battle to woo voters ahead of the country’s 14th General Election continues.

Dubbed “the mother of all elections” by current Prime Minister Najib Razak, the election is expected see a fierce, three-cornered fights between the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, main opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), the country’s Islamist party.

BN, the heavyweight in Malaysian politics, has ruled the country for decades, at one point securing an impressive 198 of 222 parliamentary seats in the 2004 general election. Since then, its popularity has plunged, with the coalition losing its super majority in 2008, and the popular vote in 2013.

Still, the coalition has maintained control of 10 of Malaysia’s 13 states.

Here is a closer look at some of the states that may play a key role in the upcoming election.


The country’s richest state, Selangor, has been under the control of Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR), a PH component party, since 2004.

Over the past 10 years, Malaysia’s opposition parties have enjoyed success in this state, even securing a two-thirds majority from 2013 to 2015, according to the Straits Times.

However, PH’s hold on Selangor has grown tenuous since the coalition parted ways with its then member PAS in 2015 due to disagreements over policies.

The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the dominant party within the BN coalition, seems keen to seize the opportunity to reclaim the state, putting forward four predecessors of current state chairman Azmin Ali as candidates.

With their former ally planning to contest 42 state seats, PH could find itself in a three-way fight in the upcoming election, which many believe will ultimately favour BN.


This UMNO stronghold is set to become a major battleground in the upcoming election.

In addition to being UMNO’s birthplace in 1946, the state is also of great economic importance, as Francis E. Hutchinson points out in his article for The Straits Times.

Johor has voted strongly in favour of BN in the past, but the opposition has made great strides forward in recent years, with support increasing in each of the past three elections.

In the upcoming election, PH needs to secure an additional 10 seats in order to win.

While the opposition claims Johor will witness a “Malay tsunami” of voters flocking to their side, others are more sceptical, according to the Straits Times.

Johor MP and Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed told the Straits Times that the claims are an attempt to stop Chinese voters from running away from the coalition.

“The opposition has no choice but to speak about the Malay tsunami because the Chinese are fed up with them and are going to abstain in the next general election,” he said.

Other political observers have also expressed doubts, pointing to the lack of unity within the opposition, according to The Straits Times.


In opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad’s home state of Kedah, it is uncertain whether the former prime minister’s influence will be enough to win residents over.

The state’s rural Malay voters are known to be party-loyal and care more about direct benefits, making them more likely to support BN or PAS, according to The Straits Times.

Some factors may help tip the balance in the PH alliance’s favour, such as support from non-Malays and urban voters as well as national issues ranging from rising living costs to the 1MDB scandal that have rocked the country under Najib’s watch.

“It is this combination that forces Umno to not rest on their laurels,” Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan told The Straits Times.

Still, PH faces a fierce fight to win the state.


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Nadia Chevroulet
About the Author: Nadia is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

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