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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: April 2020

23 - Missed Signs or Late Surge?



Regardless of events in years to come, 9 May 2018 will be regarded as a crucial juncture in Malaysia's history, as the 14th General Elections (GE-14) reconfigured the country's political context in many and far-reaching ways. What from afar looks like a binary preference between Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) is actually a mosaic of changes in the country's increasingly diverse electorate. From their base in urban areas in Peninsular Malaysia, PH expanded into semi-urban areas at the expense of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and, particularly, smaller BN component parties. Support for Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) spread outwards from Kelantan into Terengganu, as well as parts of Pahang and Kedah. In East Malaysia, the newcomer Warisan made substantial inroads into BN heartlands in Sabah. And, Sarawak, while not experiencing the same local-level swing against the incumbent, was nonetheless carried along by the momentum.

Through a multipronged approach to GE-14, this book has sought to shed light on the various factors behind these shifts in voter sentiment. It has done this by, first, looking at the context within which voters act, in terms of: the institutional rules of the game; the wider economic environment; and the availability of financial inducements. From there, it explored the perspectives of different interest groups, seeking to identify key issues facing them and the means used by the competing coalitions to attract their support. This was then complemented by an analysis of political issues and trends in key states, including three on the Peninsula (Selangor, Johor and Kelantan), and the two East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. Lastly, essays from a selection of “players” in the election provided personal perspectives on the lead-up to the election and its immediate aftermath.

In addition to seeking to deepen our understanding of GE-14 through these four approaches, this book has also sought to explore the question of whether the generalized surprise at the results was due to: signs being overlooked or misread; or the result of a late surge in support for PH and PAS at the expense of BN. While important for guiding the research carried out for this book, the question is not actually binary. Indeed, the answers that have emerged from the preceding chapters indicate a complicated and changing reality with elements of both.