In the May 2018 elections, the electoral monopoly of Barisan Nasional (BN) was broken for the first time in Malaysia's history. The erstwhile dominant coalition lost control of its stronghold states of Johor, Melaka and Negri Sembilan to the reconfigured opposition alliance, Pakatan Harapan (PH). However, while these states changed hands from BN to PH, Kelantan resisted the tide, with the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) retaining control of that state for the seventh consecutive time since 1990.
This development was unexpected as, in the run-up to the 14th General Elections (GE-14), many polls predicted that PAS would not retain control of the state. This was due to: a perceived erosion in support for the party; the expected effect that three-cornered fights would have on electoral outcomes; as well as the death of the party's spiritual leader, Nik Aziz Nik Mat. Furthermore, the party's internal schism and the subsequent founding of Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah)—which eventually joined PH—meant that PAS was stretched organizationally and no longer enjoyed a monopoly on religious appeals.
While the implications of three-cornered fights made electoral calculations difficult, opinion polls seemed to indicate that BN would make considerable incursions into the state. However, against prevailing expectations, PAS recorded a convincing victory in GE-14, winning nine out of fourteen parliamentary seats and thirty-seven out of forty-five state seats. BN won the remaining seats in Kelantan and, despite Amanah's seeming promise, the new coalition did not win a single seat in the state. Beyond Kelantan, PAS performed well in the peninsula's north and east, capturing Terengganu and winning fifteen out of thirty-six state seats in Kedah.
Yet, aside from these considerable achievements, PAS’ performance in GE-14 was mixed. While the number of popular votes for the party increased from 1.6 million in GE-13 to more than 2 million in GE-14, PAS’ seats in Parliament fell from twenty-one to eighteen. Furthermore, in west coast states such as Selangor, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Johor and Melaka, the party's footprint was substantially reduced. Consequently, the electoral result seen in Kelantan and its neighbouring regions could be the result of localized dynamics.