The Strategic Move Behind Early Snap Polls
There are rumours circulating that there may be snap polls as early as this year to resolve the political crisis plaguing the country.
The Election Commission (“EC”) chairman, Datuk Azhar bin Azizan @ Harun, has stated that the EC is prepared for such an eventuality.
There are a few reasons why it would be more strategic for the Perikatan Nasional (“PN”) government and/or its coalition partners to call for snap polls this year rather than at a later date.
Reason 1: The likely unfavourable youth vote
Although Parliament has passed a constitutional amendment lowering the voting age to 18, the EC appears to only be able to implement this sometime in June/July 2021.
It cannot be denied that the constitutional amendment required bipartisan effort. Nevertheless, it is largely seen to be a Pakatan Harapan (“PH”) initiative especially since it is a fulfilment of Promise 17 of PH’s 14th General Election (“GE14”) manifesto.
Further, with regard to GE14, the youth vote (namely those aged 40 years old and below) has been largely credited as one of the reasons PH succeeded.
PH, at least at the time of GE14, was largely popular with younger voters. If this is still the case, it would be better for PN to conduct snap polls this year rather than wait for new youth votes (namely of those aged 18 to 20) to be thrown into the mix.
Reason 2: The influx of unpredictable new votes
In March 2017, the then Election Commission chairman stated that there were a total of 4.1 million unregistered voters.
Once the automatic voter registration system comes into force, which is estimated to be sometime in mid-2021, these unregistered voters will become registered and will be entitled to vote in any subsequent snap polls.
Since the 4 million individuals are currently unregistered, there are no data sets with regard to their voting patterns/behaviours. These unpredictable new votes may or may not work against PN.
In order to err on the safe side, it would be more strategic for snap polls to be held this year.
Reason 3: The fresh success in containing COVID-19
Shortly after Tan Sri Muhyiddin bin Haji Muhammad Yassin took over the helm, his leadership faced a major test in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has done a sufficiently good job thus far and Malaysia has been hailed as one of the top five countries in the world to have successfully contained COVID-19.
COVID-19 will be fresh on the minds of the voters and it may be strategic to capitalise on this as a talking point in favour of the PN government.
Strategy aside, snap polls would place power back in the hands of the electorate. The issue of the legitimacy of the PN government can be resolved determinatively at the ballot box.
Editor’s Note: This article also appeared on Malaysiakini, and The Malaysian Insight