Invoke sees hope in swing votes

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on March 12, 2018.
-A +A

KUALA LUMPUR: While most political observers and opinion polls say that Barisan Nasional (BN) will retain power in the coming 14th general election (GE14), a new analysis by the Invoke Malaysia group says the government will be severely tested by a shift in voters’ sentiments.

Big Data analysis conducted by the reform group, presented by the whistle-blowing opposition leader Mohd Rafizi Ramli last Friday, shows a sizeable swing in Malay votes away from the ruling BN coalition.

Among the survey findings are that BN will lose Kedah and Umno’s birthplace, Johor, while Negeri Sembilan and Melaka will have hung assemblies.

The analysis is the outcome of monthly surveys over 18 months and based on millions of data points that Invoke has collected from over 200,000 voters, said Mohd Rafizi, who is the Pandan MP and a vice-president of PKR.

The monthly polls of some 2,000 respondents chosen randomly by computer on a stratified basis, show that Malay support for BN has fallen a significant 6% month-on-month (m-o-m) from December 2017 to February this year — from 41.1%, to 35.1%, and then 28.5%.

“The last time Umno Malay votes dropped this drastically was in 1999,” said Mohd Rafizi.

In that year, Malay votes were split as a result of political upheaval within Umno, when its then president and prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sacked his deputy, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. He was later jailed for corruption and sodomy.

BN’s loss is the opposition’s gain, said Mohd Rafizi.

The opposition Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) popularity among Malays went up steadily from 9.9% to 12.6% and then 14.1% in the same period, the survey shows.

“Although it doesn’t shoot up straight away, there is a trend of PH support picking up, in comparison to PAS,” said Mohd Rafizi.

Chinese voters’ support for PH had returned to GE13 level, said Mohd Rafizi, at 44.2% as of February, against 18.9% for BN. Indian voters are at 24.9% for PH and 45.4% for BN.

According to Mohd Rafizi, voters who are keeping their cards close to their chest will have a significant impact on the election outcome. He notes the m-o-m jump in Malay fence sitters who were categorised as “undecided” — from 11.9% in December to 12.2% in January and then 17% in February, while those who “refused” to divulge their voting preference stayed steady at 22.7%, 20.7% and 22.3%.

Together, these two groups make up a sizeable average of 35% of the respondents. Invoke’s analysis shows that many of them match the profile of PH supporters. This means they are “persuadable” to vote for PH, said Rafizi.

As such, Invoke predicts that PH will garner 89 seats in Peninsular Malaysia, while 76 will go to BN, and there will be none for PAS. Five states will go to PH while the east coast states of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu will go to BN. Negeri Sembilan and Melaka will be hung mainly because of how well mixed the states are in terms of their demography and socio-economic background of the voters.

No estimates for Sabah and Sarawak are given due to difficulty in getting a representative sample. But going by “conventional wisdom”, and PH retaining its seats with some boosts from Warisan, the splinter party from Sabah Umno, Mohd Rafizi said PH may get about 15 seats from Sabah and Sarawak, giving them 104-105 parliamentary seats in all. This is still short of the majority they need to form the government but he stressed that the estimate is a conservative one.

He personally believes PH will hit 120 seats in Peninsular, with another 15 from Sabah and Sarawak, giving PH “a comfortable majority”.

Invoke’s prediction has taken into account the Election Commission’s proposed redelineation, which was presented to Najib last Friday.

Of Malay voters who chose BN, PAS, were “undecided” or “refused” to answer — who make up 86% of respondents — those who agreed Najib should remain prime minister came in at 37.6%.

Of Malay respondents who chose PAS, were “undecided” or “refused” to answer —  representing some 57% of the respondents — only about 11.9% think PAS should go for three-cornered fights. That means among Malays, those who will choose PAS were only about 7%-8% as of February, said Mohd Rafizi.

Going by the analysis, PAS is doomed in a three-cornered fight based on a first-past-the-post election system. They will not get a single seat in GE14 — whether state or parliament, said Mohd Rafizi.

As for Kedah, Invoke predicts that it will become a PH state — with an estimated 22 state seats against BN’s 14, while PH will take 10 of the 15 parliamentary seats. Mohd Rafizi attributed Kedah’s fall to the “Tun M” effect.

Interestingly, said Mohd Rafizi, Johor, a long-time BN bastion, will be a marginal win for PH with 29 state seats against BN’s 27, with 16 parliamentary seats to PH and 10 to BN. “It can [still] go either way,” he said.

As far as Invoke’s data goes up to February, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein’s seat in Johor is a very marginal win for BN.

“The reason is that Sembrong is a 69:31 seat — 69% Malays and 31% Chinese and Indians,” he said, adding that all seats with 70% and below Malay voters are in danger of falling to PH.

“There’re only a few [safe] seats for Umno leaders in Johor, that’s Mersing, Kota Tinggi, Tenggara and Pengerang,” Mohd Rafizi said.

With the swing in Malay votes, whoever wins over the fence sitters will win this election, said Mohd Rafizi.

“The kingmaker is not PAS, it’s the persuadable voters,” he said. Some 80-90% of their profiles match those of PH supporters.

For this group, the main factor is bread and butter issues, including GST, wages, and foreign workers. “But don’t underestimate how sensitive the persuadable voters are to mistakes and complacency and to scandals,” he added.