(Artikel asal ditulis dalam Bahasa Melayu. Sila tekan sini untuk baca.)
It has been a week since Malaysia witnessed a change in the government when Pakatan Harapan won big in the recent election. While it is safe to say that Pakatan won a simple majority, it is interesting to highlight the fact that they didn’t actually win any seats in the East Coast of Malaysia.
For those who are not familiar with the political issues there, here are some quick facts; Kelantan has been governed by PAS since 1990. Now that it regained its seats, will be reigning for another FIVE years.
Terengganu, on the contrary, occasionally witnessed a change in government but only between two parties, PAS and BN since 1999. This election, PAS managed to take over Terengganu from BN after winning a simple majority with 32 State seats. With this in mind, our friends at SOSCILI interviewed 6 people who voted in Kelantan and Terengganu to find out how and why this happened.
1. How come Pakatan lost these states? The answer is… Mat Sabu’s party
A three-cornered fight didn’t benefit Pakatan since it didn’t win any seats at all in these states. But why? Most of the interviewees believed that this was caused by Parti Amanah.
This decision caused PAS to be divided into two groups. One group led by young ulama wanted PAS as a party on its own while another group led by progressive professionals wanted to maintain PAS’s tie with PKR and DAP. Some of the interviewees backed this fact up.
“It’s not that PH is weak, but maybe it’s because it is still new here. People would prefer PAS maybe because it has been here for a long time and PAS used to govern Terengganu previously besides the influence of ulama. But the most important thing for PAS supporters is that they will never support Parti Amanah which is a fragment of PAS.” – Aieman from Terengganu
“I heard stories from people I know about how they dislike fragmented parties such as Amanah which is a fragment from PAS. This is because there are possibilities that these fragmented parties will jump into other parties although most of the candidates were strong figures when they were with their previous parties.” – Iman, student in Terengganu.
The interviewees weren’t wrong about this, though. A similar issue happened in Sabah where politicians switched political parties. They became an instant joke to Malaysians including Sabah’s STAR President, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan whose Wikipedia page was edited several times including when his name was changed to “Datuk Dr Jeffrey Katak Gapari Kitingan“.
“PAS and UMNO can be considered equally strong in Terengganu, so people will pick either one. PH didn’t manage to enter these two states because Amanah is a fragment from PAS. And PAS supporters really dislike Amanah because they formed a new party although it is under Pakatan Harapan coalition.” – Hanis from Terengganu
Shockingly, religion doesn’t seem to be the sole factor for PAS’s win in Terengganu. The interviewees told our friends at SOSCILI that the members of PAS in Terengganu are made up of technocrats (member of a technically-skilled elite), probably another contributing factor to PAS’s win.
“Another reason is because the candidates in Terengganu are made up of technocrats. This time around, there are many of them. We normally see a lot of technocrats in Amanah but PAS has them too. This attracts youngsters. BN’s loss is also caused by corruption. PAS is more trustworthy as it has a clean record. Amanah’s candidates are mostly non-locals or someone unrecognisable to the locals.” – Athirah, Terengganu.
2. Not a shocker, but… the influence of religion in these states is HUGE
The second reason to PAS’s win isn’t really a shocker as it is the most said reason by the people of Kelantan and Terengganu; the influence of ulama in these states. In case some of you are unfamiliar with the term ulama, they’re Muslim scholars who have knowledge of Islamic tradition, history and law. One of the interviewees, self-employed Aieman Izzat admitted that the influence of ulama in Terengganu is the contributing factor to PAS’s win.
“In my opinion, the influence of the late Tuan Guru Nik Aziz and Haji Hadi Awang are very strong in Terengganu and Kelantan.”
In fact, the execution of Islamic law in Kelantan is more stringent as compared to Terengganu. For instance, women who breach the law by wearing tight and “sexy” clothes would be reprimanded, warned and fined.
FYI, men will also kena fine an amount of not more than RM1,000 or six months jail term or both if they were to wear shorts.
“Maybe with PAS governing Terengganu, it will be good to see more religious-related activities organised or the execution of law like the ones in Kelantan.” – Aieman Izzat.
Our friends at SOSCILI managed to interview a doctor, who is from and works in Kelantan, whose opinion is similar to Aieman’s;
“This is because Kelantanese experienced being governed under an Islamic government and witnessed the way Islamic government rules. The rakyat of Kelantan are comfortable and used to the environment without night clubs, gambling houses and more. Not only that, we really like and are used to the religious department’s talks organised by PAS government.” – Doctor Tengku, a true Kelantanese.
For the Kelantanese, it is a routine for them to go to religious talks that are normally held on Friday mornings. But how come on Fridays? In Islam, Fridays are considered special as Muslims will gather to pray in congregation.
In addition, the Malay-Islam factor might also cause PAS’s win in Kelantan and Terengganu. According to Malaysia’s Department of Statistics, the percentage of Malays in Kelantan and Terengganu, states that are highly dominated by Malays, are more than 90% compared to other races.
“In fact, the majority of both states are Malay, that is about 80-90%. So, most of the people in these states would prefer Malay Islam candidates to govern them.” – Aieman Izzat.
3. This time around, Terengganu wanted a change in government
If we were to compare the political situations in both states, Kelantan has been loyal to PAS who has been governing it for 28 years. As for Terengganu, we mentioned how the government changes every now and then between BN and PAS.
Apparently, the discovery of oil at the shores of Terengganu in late 1976 with royalty given annually was said to be the reason behind the constant change in government. No wonder Terengganu is rich!
“When BN governed Terengganu, there are many privileges for anak Terengganu. However, both parties have their own strengths and weaknesses that people of Terengganu have witnessed since both have governed the state. So, Terengganu (people) actually wants a party who can offer more change to the state. If we don’t like, we’ll change (the government).” – Aieman Izzat.
“The most important thing is Terengganu puts religion and education first. For instance, when Idris Jusoh became MB of Terengganu in 2004. A lot was allocated for both parties although he was from BN.” – Athirah, marketing executive.
Since Terengganu constantly changes government, there are books written specifically about the politics in Terengganu. While there are books that support PAS and claim that PAS should govern Terengganu, there are also some books that state BN should win the state.
In fact, there is a book that explains the logic behind the ideas of PAS’s leaders in Terengganu. The book tells how PAS will (eventually) govern Malaysia with Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang who will take the position of Prime Minister from Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after the 2004 elections.
4. It’s all about the candidates, not the political parties themselves
But it’s not only about the strong PAS fortress in Kelantan or the constant change in government in Terengganu, what’s more important for the rakyat in both states are the candidates as compared to the political parties they represented.
“If it is local (polling station) it’s because we know who the member of Parliaments are. We have seen what they did, if they’re concerned (toward the rakyat), if they’re the type that do their job, if they’re humble, the type that locals can get along with.” – Husna Hamid, UIA student from Kelantan.
But if we look closely into the politics in Terengganu, this state saw a constant change in government than Kelantan. In fact, there were a lot of problems with the projects in Terengganu and the multiple change in Chief Minister for all sort of reasons.
“I think the reason why Terengganu constantly change the state government is because the people of Terengganu voted based on the personality of the candidates and not based on the parties. Any candidates who are convincing will be voted. The BN candidate in my state have a bad record, so I won’t vote for him although I voted for BN in the previous election.” – Hanis, private sector employee.
In addition, smart candidates were seen as plus points to develop this state.
“We want technocrats who understand Islam. This will attract more youngsters to vote for PAS. For example, the PAS candidate in Besut is an engineer who have worked in Saudi Arabia and the current Chief Minister of Terengganu is an Aerospace Analyst, who can become an exemplary to the youngsters in this state.” – Athirah, marketing executive.
FYI, the recently elected Chief Minister of Terengganu who is from Jertih, Besut is the former Head of Department of Aerospace Engineering in Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). He has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from University of Leeds, United Kingdom. He is also an Aerospace Analyst who was involved in the analysis of MH370 tragedy and MH17 that was aired and covered by news outlets.
5. They were exposed to politics since they were children…
The interviewees were asked when they started to practice their political beliefs and their answers were shocking. One of them, Iman, told our friends at SOSCILI that her family and most families in these two states, especially in Kelantan, were exposed to politics since they were children.
“In my opinion (but this doesn’t represent every family here), we grew up with politics. Another reason why the pondok school and ulama systems are strong in Kelantan and Terengganu. We grew up like this, so we don’t want to change.” – Iman, student.
Working in Kuala Lumpur as a marketing executive in Subang Jaya, Athirah commented on her state of origin, Besut which happens to be the boundary between Kelantan and Terengganu,
“As foreign voters, we would like to go back to a state with the same feeling we get when we grow up and different from other states or the states we stay at.” – Athirah.
The youth in Kelantan were seen by the roadside to show solidarity to PAS in Tumpat, Kelantan. This video was taken by our friends at SOSCILI a day before GE14.
PAS’s fortress in these two states are undeniably strong
Predictions after predictions from various organisations were made before GE14. Ilham Centre, an organisation that conducts analysis from the economical, political and social aspects, predicted PAS to win 7 seats. PAS Youth leader, Nik Abduh, on the other hand, believed that PAS could win at least 40 seats and govern FIVE states. Invoke Malaysia predicted that PAS will NOT win any seats, both on Parliamentary and State level.
But it looks like all these predictions were inaccurate. PAS who wanted to be the ‘king-maker’ actually won 18 seats by taking back Terengganu and defended its strongest fortress, Kelantan. Not bad right?
Despite being heavily criticised (most of the time), PAS still has its strong supporters, especially in the Malay super-majority areas in Kelantan and Terengganu where its influence is still the strongest, as predicted by Ilham Centre.
And although Pakatan won big in GE14, dominating most states, the country still need states with opposition for check and balance purposes, similar to what Pakatan did before they won this election. It’s also undeniable that BN contributed a lot for this country, though this might be the effect of the constant observation made by the opposition all this while to make Malaysia a better country in the future.