Penang voters are among the most sophisticated in the country.
In the past, they have many times voted for the ruling coalition at State level but the other way for Parliament, so that they would not lose out on development, but at the same thing, have a more vocal voice in Parliament. This is a form of check and balance, or Penang people will tell you, best of 2 worlds.
In 2008, however, they have become so disenchanted with the ruling state government that not only they voted overwhelmingly for opposition at Parliament level, they also uprooted the whole BN state government, and ruling parties such as Gerakan, MCA and MIC were totally routed, with none of them winning a single seat. Out of the 40 state seats, only UMNO managed to win 11 out of the 15 they contested. PR won 29 , mainly in Chinese majority and mixed seats.
This time around, BN is leaving no stones unturned in trying to win back Penang. They even resorted to dangerous fanning of racial and religious sentiments. Penang in the words of a prominent leader of the civil society whom i met recently is now ‘ a very polarised and divided place’.
In playing up racial sentiments, the play of BN in Penang is to hope that UMNO this time around will win 15 out of the 15 seats they contested. With the return of some Malay votes, they hope to achieve not only this feat, but also hope that MCA or Gerakan or MIC can manage to win back some seats. There will be 2 different scenario depending on the number of seats these component parties may win.
If these 3 smaller parties can win up to 6 seats, then BN will rule with a simple majority. A Gerakan candidate who is a winner in one of the state seats will become the CM, even though we can see from the situation and mathematics that he would be a very lame lameduck CM, given that the exco will be predominantly stuffed by UMNO winners. This consideration is exactly why the Chinese in the States will not vote for Gerakan and MCA or MIC, because it would be futile to have a CM without real power even if BN promises a Chinese would be the CM.
If these 3 smaller parties win just about 4 or even 5 seats, the Big Brother with its tremendous resources and ‘info” at hand may entice/coerce some of the PR members to cross over. Frogs, like in the case of Perak after 308, will always be there.
This will test the legality of the antihopping law passed recently in the State Assembly, and thus a court battle will be inevitable .
Meanwhile, whoever will have the confidence of the Governor to form the government will form the government, pending the outcome of the battle in the court. The Governor’s decision will probably hinged on who wins the Federal election (or shall we say, which side the wind is blowing stronger).
But given that more than 80% of the ethnic Chinese voters will be anti-BN ( it took BN a couple of millions spent and a 8 minute performance by PSY to find this out and it would have cost them nothing just to ask around), it will indeed be a miracle for these 3 small parties to win any seat.
So as a person who hails from Penang, I think this time around, PR will win Penang again, but BN may have a couple more extra seats because of a stronger UMNO. But to win back Penang? It has to take more than free handouts, fanning of racial sentiments or a performance by a Korean Star to do it.