ONE thing is very clear: the fight for Melaka’s 28 state seats will be between Pakatan Harapan (PKR 11, DAP eight, and Amanah nine) and Barisan Nasional (Umno 20, MCA seven, and MIC one) while Perikatan Nasional (Bersatu 15, PAS eight, and Gerakan five) is likely to be more or less wiped out.

If I were to hazard a guess as to who will win, I would put my bet on PH simply because the multi-cornered fights – at least three-cornered in all constituencies with PH, BN, and PN – will favour PH. The Malay parties aligned against PH are split three ways.

The only way that will not happen is if there is a massive swing of Malay votes to Umno – and looking at the constituencies and previous results, it will have to be a rather large swing back to Umno.

That’s very unlikely to happen with Umno still stuck with oldies like president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and supposed comeback artist Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Both of them still have their credibility shot to bits and are facing a multitude of corruption charges from whose clutches they are not likely to escape, assuming a fair and competent legal system gives a full run of their trials.

Despite all their bluster, especially Najib and his bossku moniker, I don’t believe that Malays are going to be bowled over by the aggressive, if desperate, campaigning to get himself back into the mainstream and for a chance to get charges withdrawn.

Remember that in the last elections, Malays voted out Umno, giving for the first time perhaps only a third of their overall votes, instead of at least a majority to Umno in all the previous elections. Nothing much has changed since, and if extremism has reared its ugly head, it’s more show than substance, largely restricted to some Umno/PAS/Bersatu leaders.

I do not subscribe to the notion that kampung Malays are easily fooled – on the contrary, previous voting patterns show it was they who forced Umno out, largely because of corruption issues such as 1MDB. Unless Umno reinvents itself – it certainly hasn’t with probably the most incompetent, corrupt, and arrogant leadership ever – Malays will not rush back to it, the continued and heightened demonisation of DAP notwithstanding.

A look at victories and seat compositions at the previous elections in May 2018 is very instructive and gives useful pointers to future results. This table compiled from election results shows the winning seats in the last elections.

For the latest polls, 112 candidates will contest, 28 each from BN, PN, and PH; five from Parti Bumiputra Perkasa Malaysia, one from Parti Perikatan India Muslim Nasional, and 22 independents.

It’s a crowded field and except for some keen contests involving prominent independents, the fight will be very much between BN and PH, with PN likely to lose out completely.

PAS, now part of PN, did not win any of the 24 seats it contested in Melaka in 2018 – it did not even come close. But it plays a major role as a spoiler taking between 6.2% to 16.2% of votes in the 24 constituencies it contested in 2018.

It will play a spoiler role in the eight it will contest on Saturday to PH’s advantage. So PAS has no clout in Melaka, where Malays form 58% of the electorate, and it is vital to have non-Malay support to win. In many ways Melaka may well be a test case for the rest of Malaysia.

The other major party in PN, Bersatu, won just two seats in 2018 out of six contested. A careful analysis of the 2018 election results indicate strongly that Bersatu had no broad support, winning just 13 parliamentary seats after contesting 52 (all in the peninsula) for a win rate of 25%, the lowest in the PH coalition then. It made little or no impact in the state election as well.

However, the 15 seats it will contest will again split Malay votes, albeit not by very much, in favour of PH. Gerakan’s five seats in non-Malay areas is not likely to have a major impact against DAP given the current disenchantment of non-Malays with both Umno/BN and PN. It will only serve to divide the non-Malay vote against PH. It will almost certainly be crunch time for PN in Melaka.

Let’s look at Umno/BN now, which won 13 seats in 2018 to PH’s 15. MCA/MIC did not win any seats. A look at the electoral composition in the 2018 election indicates that almost all of Umno/BN’s seats were won not only in Malay-majority areas, but in areas where the Malay composition of the electorate was over 70%!

The fight in Melaka will be very much between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan, with Perikatan Nasional likely to lose out completely. – AZIM RAHMAN/The Vibes pic, November 18, 2021
The fight in Melaka will be very much between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan, with Perikatan Nasional likely to lose out completely. – AZIM RAHMAN/The Vibes pic, November 18, 2021

While common wisdom (which is not always right) indicates a large swing of Malay votes to Umno, there is likely to be a huge or even larger swing of non-Malay votes away from Umno given the strident anti-non-Malay stance taken by Umno. Which non-Malay is likely to vote Umno under such circumstances?

The last-minute concession to whiskey manufacturer Timah to keep their name, albeit with conditions to mention that Timah is tin ore, is hardly likely to change this. Umno’s true colours are just too obvious. Its modus operandi is quite clear too: keep everything under Malay (elite) control and thereby ensure that party bigwigs live not just comfortably, but in great style too.

Consider too that many Malays are actually rather disillusioned with Umno and its return in bag-loads of patronage and even corruption, and a perceptible reluctance among investigating and prosecuting authorities to give their all against those who have stolen, or to use a kinder word, misappropriated hundreds and billions of ringgit from the national coffers.

If AirAsia, AAX’s sister company’s tickets were included, reports say the amount is RM1.43 billion, which means the flying public was financing that much of money interest-free to AirAsia Group and there was the risk that practically all that money would be lost.

Include the advance bookings for other low-cost carriers and full-service carriers that offer terms similar to these low-cost carriers for some flight categories, and the total amount could come up to as much as RM3 billion or more.

The long-sleeping Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom), which has the mandate to regulate economic and commercial matters relating to civil aviation in Malaysia, opened its eyes briefly to finally issue a letter to AAX to review the decision to classify the payments as creditor debt.

On November 11, it issued a letter to AAX  where it “has clearly and unequivocally urged AAX to reassess its proposal to treat air travel consumers as creditors and to pay only 0.5% of the value of tickets purchased as announced on 18th October 2021”.

“Mavcom takes the view that air travel consumers ought not to be classified as ‘creditors’ as the air travel consumers did not, inter alia, sell any products, provide services or make loans to AAX, but instead have paid monies for the purchase of tickets in advance of their flights.

“Accordingly, Mavcom reiterates its position that AAX should reimburse air travel consumers for the tickets purchased. If AAX fails to reimburse the affected air travel consumers accordingly, Mavcom will not hesitate to exercise its powers under the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act 2015 (Act 771).”

It did not say what it would do, exactly.

Mavcom correctly pointed out that AAX has repeatedly, in its correspondence with Mavcom and in its statements made to the public, given the assurance that AAX is committed to reimburse air travel consumers who were not able to fly due to flight cancellations.

While major AirAsia and AAX shareholders have said they will make refunds, these have been slow and the process deliberately made tedious as pointed out in this article. Among others, the process entailed filling up “complicated” forms, and getting a statutory declaration from a commissioner of oaths, which was time-consuming and required customers to fork out more money.

Despite assuring refunds will be made, AAX made an about turn and has now undertaken to only pay 0.5% of ticket prices effectively. Worse, if AirAsia emulates AAX, a larger amount of consumer money will be at risk. And if this is the process that airlines generally adopt, consumers stand to lose billions.

The current action by Mavcom comes quite late in the day, and despite repeated protests from the flying public who have waited long for reimbursements for cancelled flights, nothing happened for a long time. This led to the highly immoral classification of passenger deposits as debt with only a 0.5% refund and Mavcom’s last-minute, rather late announcement.

These Malays are not likely to abandon PH altogether, which still offers the only hope for this country of ours to be put back on the path of growth and prosperity with equity and to roll back the endemic corruption – more pernicious than Covid-19 or anything else – before it destroys most of us.

Now, DAP. They won eight out of eight seats in 2018, not just in Chinese-majority areas but also in Malay-majority areas. Yes, it’s true – because Malay votes were divided and non-Malays were solidly against Umno/BN. DAP won in four seats where Malays had a majority with between 59.7% and 65.4% of the electorate.

Note that Umno’s partners, MCA and MIC, did not win a seat. That won’t change.

I know I am sticking my neck out when I predict a likely win for PH. I am prepared to be proven wrong in a situation where it is anyone’s guess how much support Umno really has. Personally, my faith in Malaysians will be badly shaken if there is a huge swing to Umno from Malays. Whatever for? When Umno has not changed and is run by the same bunch of…call them what you want.

Unless there is a very huge swing back to Umno in terms of Malay support away from Bersatu, PAS, and PKR simultaneously, PH is likely to have the upper hand in Melaka. – The Vibes, November 18, 2021

P. Gunasegaram hopes Malaysians will do the right thing in terms of elections and return power to those who earned it the last time in greater numbers now. He is chief executive of advocacy and research unit Sekhar Institute, and senior editorial consultant of PETRA News which publishes The Vibes and Getaran