Crucial hours for political parties to win Melaka

Mas Ermieyati could be the 1st woman CM in history if PN wins this election

by AZREEN HANI & ASILA JALIL / pic by TMR FILE

POLITICAL parties in Melaka are entering the final hours of campaigning today, before more than 470,000 normal voters cast their vote on Saturday.

All 28 state seats will see multi-cornered fights, including six-cornered fights expected in Asahan, Duyong and Gadek.

In total, there are 112 candidates with Pakatan Harapan (PH), Barisan Nasional (BN) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) contesting all 28 state seats, along with 22 independent candidates — five from Parti Bumiputra Perkasa Malaysia and one from Parti Perikatan India Muslim Nasional.

It is the second state election to be held during the pandemic, also arguably the first state polls where government coalition partners are competing against each other.

Two days before the election, PN chairman Tan Sri Muhyidin Yassin named Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, 45, as the chief minister (CM) candidate if the coalition wins this election. This could make her the first woman CM in history.

Mas Ermieyati is contesting the Tanjung Bidara seat in a three-cornered fight against Melaka Umno chief Datuk Abd Rauf Yusoh and PH’s Zainal Hassan.

“For us, it’s not important whether a man or woman holds important posts. This is historic for Melaka,” Muhyiddin said, adding that it will be easy for voters to accept her due to her strong track record.

Observers have told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that voter turnout will be the deciding factor.

“The Covid cases are getting higher and the people could not see a reason why they should be voting.

“The MoU between the government and the Opposition may dissuade them, because naturally, what is the point? The GE (general election) is not that far away anyway,” a political analyst who requested anonymity said.

The restriction on physical campaigning may not have a significant impact on the political parties involved.

University of Malaya (UM) political analyst Dr Mohammad Tawfik Yaakub said although the standard operating procedures (SOPs) imposed were criticised at first, political parties have adapted to the new normal throughout the election period.

“Although physical campaigns are not allowed, political parties have found creative approaches in the new normal to engage with voters.

“In my opinion, there is still democratic space in Malaysia during the Melaka polls,” he told TMR.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Institute of Ethnic Studies deputy director Dr Kartini Aboo [email protected] told TMR that the restrictions make it hard for candidates to go beyond what is commonly carried out during campaigns, which could have an impact on their connection with voters.

However, she noted that Melaka is an urbanised state where almost 90% of the people have access to the Internet.

“The typical political campaign during the election is going door to door and public speaking in an open space, but the new normal due to Covid-19 demands political parties and candidates to be creative.

“But Melaka is a very urbanised state, with perhaps 85% to 90% having a smartphone. The population of elderly people — those unable to connect with news on smartphones or social media, but still able to get up to date with mainstream media — may be less than 15%. Thus, the impact may not be as severe as people may perceive,” she said.

UM’s Mohammad Tawfik said low turnout would benefit the incumbent and not much change will take place in the Melaka’s administration. Local issues may also heavily influence voters’ decisions.

“Local issues remain as a factor that could sway votes in the state polls.”

UKM’s Kartini opined PH would have the upper hand in urban and mixed seats, as the demographic factor leads to the expectation of most non-Malays casting their votes for PH candidates.

“I think this is not about high or low voter turnout because this is the first past the post system depending on ‘a simple majority’ count to declare the winner. Whoever gets the majority vote will win no matter how many voters turn out to vote for each state seat.

“Whichever candidate has a good track record in managing local issues from flooding to flawed traffic systems will also gain vote. The Melaka people will decide well,” she said.