Webinar on “Hearts versus Minds in the Struggle for Selangor”

In this webinar, Dr Ong Kian Ming and Dr Marzuki Mohamad compared and contrasted their outlooks on the battle for Selangor in the upcoming election scheduled for August 12th.


Tuesday, 25 July 2023 – While citizens from five other states will also be voting on this day, Selangor is Malaysia’s most economically and politically consequential state. The state has been under Pakatan Harapan (PH) since 2008. Yet, despite the benefits of incumbency and PH’s track record in the state, there are indications that the battle for Selangor will be hard-fought. In addition, the degree to which PH and Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters will vote for each other’s candidates remains to be seen. This is because these two coalitions, whilst former foes, have now joined forces to form the Unity Government and are working together for the first time.

Clockwise from top left: Dr Francis Hutchinson (moderator), Dr Marzuki Mohamad and Dr Ong Kian Ming. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Analyzing data for Selangor from last November’s general election, Dr Ong of Taylor’s University and the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute drew out implications for the upcoming state election. He began looking at the number of state seats that would have been won by PH, BN and the opposition coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN), as well as which seats were closely contested. From there, he evaluated several hypotheses based on the degree to which PH or BN supporters would ‘transfer’ their votes to their partner coalition. Given past trends as well as likely levels of transferability, Dr Ong argued that Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional stand a good chance of defending the state. He then analysed the potential electoral impact of each coalition’s campaign as well as the allocation of seats to component parties in the United Government as well as Perikatan Nasional (PN). He then shared data from recent surveys on the popular support for key political figures in each coalition, and concluded by assessing the implications of a Black Swan event – namely a PN victory.

Dr Marzuki of International Islamic University Malaysia focused his presentation on a recent survey of Malay voters in Selangor carried out by Institut Masa Depan Malaysia. Respondents were asked their opinions about the direction Malaysia and Selangor were going, key issues troubling them, their support for key political figures from across the spectrum, how they voted in the general election and whether they were likely to vote the same way or differently in the state election. Respondents were also asked to share which coalition they would vote for in a variety of two- and then three-cornered contests. Based on these findings, Dr Marzuki argued that there was unlikely to be a significant level of voting transferability from Barisan Nasional to Pakatan Harapan and vice versa. Rather, Perikatan Nasional was likely to benefit from a significant swing in support away from Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional. This, in turn, would endanger a substantial proportion of Selangor’s 39 Malay-majority seats.

The webinar proceeded to a Q&A session. Both panelists fielded questions about the role of specific candidates, the degree to which voters were influenced by the candidates for Mentri Besar, as well as the ultimate implications for stability and the country’s political context of a victory of the respective coalitions. Malaysia Studies Programme Coordinator Francis Hutchinson moderated this webinar, which was attended by 100 people.

Related ISEAS Perspective:
2023/50 “Why Perikatan Nasional May Win in Selangor” by Marzuki Mohamad and Khairul Syakirin Zulkifli

2023/52 “Malaysia’s 2023 State Elections (Part 1): Projections and Scenarios” by Ong Kian Ming