THE naming of prime ministerial candidates in the event of a victory in the upcoming 15th General Election (GE15) is now a commonplace strategy by political parties aimed at garnering support among voters and as an added psychological boost.
So far, several parties and coalitions have named their respective prime ministerial candidate, including Barisan Nasional (BN), who is retaining current caretaker Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Pakatan Harapan (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) and Perikatan Nasional (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin), along with Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) whose pro-tem chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is reportedly preparing himself for the unlikely possibility of becoming PM for the third time, if he continued to be asked to do so and with the lack of a suitable alternative.
Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Prof Dr P Sivamurugan said such announcements were important indicators of support, aimed at fence sitters, especially if the candidate chosen was a high-profile personality with a well-known reputation.
He said the announcement would also indirectly curb negative perception that the party lacked direction after GE15.
“It’s important to convince voters and win their confidence. For instance, BN repeatedly stated that Ismail Sabri is its prime ministerial candidate as there are some parties out there trying to influence public perception by stating the coalition’s prime ministerial candidate is actually Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Although he has denied it, it has still been spread.
“For me, the importance of naming a prime ministerial candidate is to avoid the issue being misused and defined by rival parties that could erode the morale and credibility of the party, and not naming a candidate might hint at problems post-election at choosing a government leader,” he told Bernama.
Sivamurugan said although there are candidates, the power to appoint a PM still rests with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Article 40(2) of the Federal Constitution.
“This means as long as it does not gain the consent of the King, then we cannot say that the candidate will be elected…It is just used for optics in GE15 campaigns and to appeal to voters,” he added.
Fellow political analyst Prof Datuk Dr Nasrudin Mohamed, meanwhile, was of the opinion that having a prime ministerial candidate could force other rivals to also reveal or announce their candidates.
“I agree that it is a strategy by political parties to get votes, but there has to be a more specific agenda for them to do so, which is to show they are ready for the GE15 campaign.
“By announcing their prime ministerial candidate, it signals to voters that the party and its leaders are confident of winning the election,” he added.
Nasrudin said such moves would get the attention of voters but was not a guarantee that the candidate would be chosen to lead the administration, which can be influenced by other factors beyond their control.
As for Universiti Malaya Centre for Democracy and Elections socio-political analyst Assoc Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi, announcing a prime ministerial candidate before campaigning begins acts to attract the attention of voters by showcasing confident leaders.
“Voters can then compare candidates and make critical assessments before deciding, especially fence-sitters and young voters.
“It is also important for political parties to boost their support, especially to bolster the confidence of their election machinery,” he added.
The Election Commission had on last week set Nov 19 for GE15 polling day, with nomination day falling on Nov 5 and early voting on Nov 15. — Bernama
- This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition