PETALING JAYA: An Umno-PAS pact will pose a challenge to Pakatan Harapan, but it’s the millions of predominantly young Malaysians casting their ballots for the first time in the next general election who hold the keys to victory.
An analysis by The Star based on the 14th General Election (GE14) results shows that the combined votes for Umno and PAS candidates outnumbered the ballots for Pakatan Harapan winners in 21 parliament seats and 45 state seats.
Some of the 21 parliament seats an Umno-PAS alliance could have wrested from Pakatan in GE14 are those won by big names including the mentris besar of Kedah Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir (Jerlun) and Perak Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu (Tambun).
The 45 extra state seats an Umno-PAS pact could have won comprises constituencies in Selangor (nine); Penang (nine); Kedah (eight); Perak (eight); Johor (six); Melaka (two); Negri Sembilan (two); and Perlis (one).
Commenting on the findings, Universiti Malaya political analyst Dr Muhammad Asri Mohd Ali agreed that an Umno-PAS electoral pact would pose a challenge to Pakatan.
However, he cautioned that the potential strength of an Umno-PAS pact in GE15 cannot be judged based merely on the results of GE14.
Many other factors must be taken into account, he said, including defections by elected representatives and issues that can shift voter sentiment.
For GE15, Asri believes that it is the lowering of the minimum voting age to 18 from 21 that will have a bigger impact compared to an Umno-PAS alliance.
The Election Commission has estimated that the number of voters could go up to 22 million in GE15 compared to the 14.9 million in GE14.
"I believe that the age and ethnic ratio of our electorate will change drastically with the entry of many 18,19, and 20 year-olds including older voters who did not vote in GE14 but who may choose to do so at the next poll," he said.
The extent of change to the profile of the country's electorate will only be known once the automatic registration of voters aged 18-21 is complete. The automatic registration will also mean those above the age of 21 and have not registered as a voter will be eligible to vote too.
Asri said that in some countries people who are between the ages 18 to their mid-20s usually do not care about politics. Their biggest concerns are not race or religion but jobs and access to affordable housing.
Political parties must therefore make sure that their policies and even choice of candidates appeal to an electorate that has become younger with the lowering of the voting age.
Automatic voter registration means that many seats will have large numbers of 18, 19 and 20 year-olds added to their list of eligible voters.
However, it is still not clear how many will actually come out to cast their ballots on polling day.
"We need to see what policies the Umno-PAS pact and Pakatan will offer, especially to younger voters. The party with an advantage in GE15 will be the one that can mobilise youths and get them to vote in their favour," he said.