In this webinar, Ms Tricia Yeoh examines the underlying factors that account for PH’s survival in Selangor despite tremendous political change at the national level.
MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME WEBINAR
Friday, 29 January 2021 – The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute invited Ms Tricia Yeoh to deliver a webinar titled “Pakatan Harapan’s hold in Selangor”. Ms Yeoh is the CEO of the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham Malaysia, and former Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.
Ms Yeoh began her presentation by situating Selangor among the states governed by Pakatan Harapan (PH). In the aftermath of the 2018 General Election (GE2018), in addition to the federal government, PH controlled seven state assemblies in the Peninsula. However, the collapse of the PH federal government in February 2020 precipitated in a change of state governments in Johor, Melaka, Kedah and Perak.
Presently, Selangor is one of the three remaining states governed by PH. Ms Yeoh argued that Selangor remains an important battleground for both PH and Perikatan Nasional (PN) due to its economic and demographic importance. Apart from being Malaysia’s wealthiest state in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and per capita income, it is also the most populous. Furthermore, PH continues to have a solid grasp in Selangor despite the resignation of some senior Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leaders.
Ms Yeoh then provided a historical overview of PH’s governance in Selangor leading up to February 2020. During the 2008 General Election, there was a groundswell of dissatisfaction against the then ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) federal administration with massive protests organised by Bersih and HINDRAF. Khir Toyo, then Chief Minister for Selangor, was also accused of corruption which further damaged the reputation of BN Selangor.
As Pakatan Rakyat (the predecessor of PH) gained control of the Selangor state government in 2008, then Chief Minister Khalid Ibrahim implemented numerous people-friendly programmes while improving the transparency of state bureaucracy. Despite the Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) withdrawal from Pakatan Rakyat coalition in 2015 and the accompanied political volatility, the Selangor state administration EXCO remained intact and survived.
This solid performance meant that, in the 2018 General Election, PH Selangor achieved their best performance as the coalition clinched 51 out of the 56 state assembly seats. PKR, a component party of PH, held the lion share of seats in Selangor. However, as PH gained the federal seat in Putrajaya, infighting within PKR intensified between Anwar Ibrahim and Azmin Ali.
Ms Yeoh argued that the PH administration in Selangor remains stable even after the defection of Azmin Ali and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in February 2020, as PH retains an overwhelming majority in the state assembly. Consequently, while PH lost several assembly-persons, it still retained a strong majority in the state assembly meaning that a very significant number of assembly-members would have needed to cross to topple the government. In addition, Chief Minister Amirudin Shari and other senior state level leaders faced little incentive in crossing the floor as there was no guarantee that they would retain their positions. The examples of other states such as Johor showed that Chief Ministers who crossed the floor did not retain their positions under the national PN administration.
Ms Yeoh concluded that the future of PH in Selangor would depend on the internal party dynamics within PKR, as well as inter-coalition relations within PH which have increasingly come under strain between PKR and the other component parties. Furthermore, while the state government does have a track record of people-friendly initiatives, it has faced criticism for persistent water cuts. In addition, the 2018 constituency redelineation exercise did increase the number of Malay-majority seats, as opposed to mixed seats, which could cost PH some seats.
In the question and answer session, questions raised include the possibility for Amirudin Shari to develop as one of a new generation of national leaders, leadership renewal within PH Selangor, introduction of anti-party hopping law for Selangor, and the likelihood of people voting differently for federal and state governments during the next general election. The webinar attracted 60 participants from Singapore and abroad.