Malaysia: PH moves in as UMNO loses support in Fortress Felda

  • Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition lost 26 parliamentary seats that contained Felda plantations in the May 18 general election, many of them wards under its control for decades. This was a big jump from the loss of just 7 so-called Felda seats in the 2013 polls.
  • What is worse, analysts say, is that Umno-led BN will find it tough to win back most of these constituencies at the next polls.
  • The “Felda seats” are parliamentary constituencies that contain Malay voters who are part of the plantation scheme initiated by the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda).
  • But Umno’s strength in the Felda heartland has been eroding in the last three polls by a combination of factors, analysts say.
  • These included the growth of young Malay families who are less loyal to Umno and its race-and-religion rhetoric, the spread of social media that brought corruption and governance issues into the plantations, and major scandals involving Felda that diluted loyalty to Umno.
  • The Felda parliamentary seats total at least 52 parliamentary wards with some 1.2 million Malay voters today, as the original settlers had children and grandchildren. Some analysts tot up 53 or 54 Felda parliamentary seats, depending on the mapping system used.
  • The PH government in July said it is looking at various ways to help Felda settlers reduce their debt. Prior to the May 18 polls, the PH coalition had pledged to abolish Felda settlers’ loans if it wins the general election.
  • Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali, who is in charge of Felda, said the government will table a White Paper on the agency soon to discuss its financial health and strategic plans for its recovery.

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