Within hours of the closing of the ballot boxes on November 20th.2021, the results of the Melaka state elections would have trickled in and the people of the state of Melaka would know who the victors of the state elections are, and from there get an inkling of an idea how the new state government would look like. For better or for worse.
For all sense and purposes, the impending Melaka state elections, slated for the 20th November 2021, shall be the first state elections to be held since the Sabah state elections of 2020. And the first since vaccines became available. Well, in Malaysia at least.
But before we can talk about the Melaka state elections, we must first go back in time to the first state elections since the conclusion of the 14th general elections, GE14.
To recap, the Sabah state elections was held in September 2020. It came about through the dissolution of the Sabah state legislative assembly by the TYT Sabah, Tun Juhar Maharuddin. The decision to dissolve the state assembly was based on the advice of the then Ketua Menteri (Chief Minister) of Sabah, Dato’ Sri Panglima Shafie Apdal.
At that particular moment in time, there were strong rumblings in the political vineyard that his WARISAN-led government was about to be toppled. What seemingly made it worse that the political coup d’etat was led by no other than his predecessor, Dato’ Seri Panglima Musa Aman of UMNO and BN.
Hence, to avoid an impending political crisis which would result in the fall of WARISAN-led state government, the then Ketua Menteri decided to ask for a dissolution of the assembly, thus paving the way for fresh state elections.
Held during a time when the Covid-19 pandemic was still gaining momentum, it is now recorded in the history books that the Warisan-led government of Dato’ Seri Panglima Shafie Apdal lost the election to Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), an unofficial coalition comprising the various political parties of UMNO, Bersatu, PBS, STAR, PBRS, MCA and SAPP.
It is also interesting to note of what was not recorded in the history books namely that the Sabah state elections gained notoriety when it was identified, in the aftermath of the state elections, as the common denominator in the sudden and sharp increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases in Sabah and elsewhere in the country, via the movement of political party workers as well as their party leaders and their respective entourages.
Also, the announcement by the then Prime Minister and president of Bersatu, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, during a state Bersatu party function, that should the GRS win the state election, Dato’ Seri Panglima Hajiji Mohd Noor of Bersatu would be made the Ketua Menteri. The announcement, made just prior to the state elections, caused an uproar especially with UMNO, as no consultations were held prior and signaled of difficult days ahead for the loose coalition that is the GRS, should they prevail.
A flurry of behind the scenes meetings saw peace restored, albeit temporary, for the prize that is capturing Sabah was within grasp and no controversies should be allowed to detract from the prize. But the first salvo had been fired, and although Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is now no more the Prime Minister, the ‘arrangement’ is maintained as it is so that the more important issue of the day ie containing the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, is given the attention it deserves.
That was the Sabah state elections in 2020. Fast forward to October 2021 and the impending Melaka state elections.
News of the possible fall of the Melaka state government made the rounds as early as October 1st, and by the 4th of October, the Melaka state assembly was dissolved by the TYT Melaka, Tun Mohd Ali Rustam. As per convention, the TYT Melaka dissolved the Melaka state legislative based on the advice of the Ketua Menteri (Chief Minister) of Melaka, taken after the public announcement by four state assemblymen from the government side of the assembly, of their withdrawal of support, thus triggering the fall of the state government.
Having being notified of the dissolution of the state assembly, the Election Commission has since announced that the state elections will be held on November 20, 2021, with nomination day being the 8th of November, 2021.
It is ironic that when looking back, the outgoing Melaka state government came into being when, in March 2020, four state assemblymen withdrew their support for the then Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led state government. Dubbed ‘The Gang of Four’, they comprised of two assemblymen from Bersatu and one each from the DAP and PKR.
The switch in allegiance was not unexpected and was seen as being in line with the much talked about get together at Petaling Jaya’s Sheraton Hotel. That was the get together when Bersatu signaled its intention to withdraw from the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition and form a federal government together with the UMNO-led BN and PAS. And so it did, but that was then.
This time around, it is again that magical figure of four that brought down the state government, with the ‘Gang of Four 2.0’ comprising this time around, of two from UMNO, one from Bersatu and one described as Independent.
From the Gang of Four 2.0, it is interesting to note that the sole Independent state assemblyman also played a role in the downfall of the previous state government. This despite himself being a member of the State Executive as well as elected on the DAP ticket. All said, truly, he is independent.
It is also interesting to note that of the two UMNO assemblymen, one was the Ketua Menteri prior to the 14th general elections and was one of the three shortlisted to be the new Ketua Menteri when the PH-led state government fell. That the job went to another candidate only adds fuel to speculations to the actual reasons behind the ex-Ketua Menteri withdrawing his support for the outgoing state government. Sour grape maybe. Or scorched earth?
Repercussions have been swift for the two UMNO assemblymen. They were, as expected, expelled as per UMNO’s rulebooks and with an impending state election, are seemingly without any party machinery to fall back on should they stand for re-election.
There were speculations that the four would be contesting under the PH ticket especially when pictures of the four meeting up with the Leader of the Opposition, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the president of PKR and defacto leader of PH made the rounds. But opposition from PH’s member parties may have put paid to that proposition and as such, it is not unforeseeable that the four will ultimately contest as Independents.
Not good news to the ‘Gang of Four 2.0’, for as everybody who observe Malaysian politics know, it is almost impossible for an independent candidate to be elected as elected representative, without the support of a well-oiled party machinery and the funding that comes along with it.
Unlike the Sabah state elections, the Melaka state elections will be held against a backdrop of a vaccinated population. Despite the knowledge that more than 90% of the adult population of Malaysia are already vaccinated, the health authorities are understandably wary and cautious of the implications of holding the elections at this present moment in time.
It stands to reason that an updated SOP would be announced in due course and hopefully, the updated SOP would have taken on board the lessons learnt ever since the pandemic broke out in the country.
Its a foregone conclusion that the Melaka state election will be closely watched by many, analysts and observers alike, for the answer to several questions. The first would be the voting tendencies of the Malay electorate. The second would be how would the non Malay electorate vote? Will the DAP prevail with its Chinese-based votes?
With regards to the Malay electorate. despite forming the federal government together with Bersatu and PAS, UMNO have decided ‘to go it alone’ as resolved by the UMNO delegates at the national UMNO convention in 2020. It was overwhelmingly decided then, by the delegates themselves, that there would be no political collaboration either with Bersatu nor the DAP and Dato’Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
It would be fair to conclude that should UMNO prevail in the Melaka state elections, then a nail would have been nailed into Bersatu’s political coffin This scenario is somewhat similar to that what unfolded between UMNO and Semangat 46 a few decades ago, when ultimately Semangat 46, which was seen as a splinter party of UMNO’s, disbanded and came back to the fold several years later.
It will also point the way for the elected representatives elected under the UMNO banner as to their political futures. It has been made clear by the UMNO grassroots, what observers would describe as ‘Orang UMNO’, of what was perceived as a political betrayal of the highest proportions and akin to a sell-out of principles and ideals of the political struggle of the Malays as embodied and enshrined in UMNO.
The results from the state elections will also point the way to other UMNO-friendly parties eg MCA and MIC. It has been noticeable that some elements within the two traditional allies of UMNO were trying to ruffle UMNO’s feathers, casting doubt to UMNO’s capabilities and viability as a political body and hinting at UMNO as a spent political force.
It seems that the state of Melaka would again play host to a a most important chapter in Malaysian politics, for November 20th could signal the renewal of one political party and the death knell of another. But it could also the signal of a more divisive era of Malaysian politics, with race pushed prominently to the forefront.
Whatever, it is, with GE15 around the corner, many issues that arose from GE14 seems to be heading for a final resolution. one way or the other.