Malaysia: Political economy of FELDA and South Johor & GE-13 voting behaviour

Research done mid-2013, paper to
be published in Kajian Malaysia in 2014

The importance of Felda
• This paper is about the political economy of FELDA and its important place in
the electoral politics of the 13th General Election held on 5 May 2013. In a
heavily contested election, the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional has held on to
power by winning by a 22-seat majority, despite its worst performance with
the loss of the national popular vote and questions about irregularities.
• However, the hope of Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition coalition, to make
inroads in BN’s proverbial FELDA “fortress” vote bank was disappointed.
Instead, there were swings toward BN.
• Winning FELDA areas is important to building up its rural base, in order to win
enough seats to govern. In the midst of urban rejection, UMNO has retained
stronger control in key rural areas, turfing out and keeping out the opposition
coalition from its FELDA stronghold, with Mazlan Aliman of PAS reporting on
the difficulties of reaching FELDA women voters and in allaying rural voter
fears about DAP Chinese rule.
Felda issues & voting
• In FELDA settlement areas the ruling coalition is seen to have preferential access
by way of its links with FELDA’s administration. The windfall from the FELDA
Global public listing seems to have been an important boon.
• However, there are interesting regional differences, notably between Pahang and
Johore. Here, the parallels between oil palm replanting economic decision making
and voting behaviour of FELDA settlers is intriguing.
• Efforts to lure the FELDA youth vote seems to have been flummoxed with socalled
money politics, including the offer of new lands for homes for younger
• At the same time, UMNO-BN may want to repeat its FELDA electoral success by
performing IPO “encores” to generate financial bonuses with two other key land
development agencies – FELCRA and RISDA. Combined with FELDA, these three
agencies may have control and influence of up to 19% of Malaysia’s voters.
INTEGRATION: Malaysian stakeholders
contest within a pro-development
continuum in Johor GE-13
Research done end-2013, paper to
be published as chapter in a book by ISEAS in 2014/2015
Johor voting in GE13 – a looking glass world
• The Opposition coalition sought to make significant gains against the
Barisan Nasional coalition in its stronghold of Johor, but the Chinese
18.3% swing against Barisan Nasional is associated with a 1.9%
increased Malay vote for it. Racial and religious issues were
apparently dominant. Johor Malays and Chinese voted in an
ethnically divided manner. Future contests will be for the Malay vote.
On economic issues such as Iskandar Malaysia, the benefits to the
Johor Malay population (especially its below-40 voters) is likely to be
in sharper focus in future political contestation.
It’s all about the Malay vote• Thus, former ‘safe-deposit’ states for BN, such as Johor and Sabah are
now considered as the front-line for the next general election.
• The contest will be for the Malay vote. Will the Malay vote be
contested mostly on economic or non-economic issues?
• On economic projects such as Iskandar Malaysia, the benefits to the
Johor Malay population (especially its below-40 voters) is likely to be
in sharper focus. If so, the rhetoric used by PAS in GE-13 and BN’s
post GE-13 policy reactions may be good indicators of future political
contestation over the grand project of Johor-Singapore integration

The above is extracted from my presentation material on the topics. Please contact me for more info.