Scrutinizing the DAP’s Success in the 2023 Malaysian State Elections

Scrutinizing the DAP’s Success in the 2023 Malaysian State Elections
Ong Kian Ming, author
Date of publication:  2024
Publisher:  ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
Number of pages:  52
Code:  TRS8/24
Soft Cover
ISBN: 9789815203417
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About the publication

Following the formation of the Unity Government in December 2022, two of its component coalitions, Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN), jointly campaigned during the state government elections held in August 2023. A key question arising from this cooperation between PH and the BN lead party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), was the extent to which it would strengthen the appeal of both coalitions, especially among Malay voters. 

Using granular polling station and polling stream data for forty-seven seats contested by the PH member Democratic Action Party (DAP), this paper explores the effect of this relationship on voter support. This Trends in Southeast Asia finds that, contrary to expectations, DAP actually gained voter support from campaigning with UMNO. 

DAP gained an average 5 per cent increase in the level of support from 2022 to 2023, with an 8 per cent increase in Malay support and a 2 per cent increase in Chinese support. 

DAP would probably still have won at least forty-one of these state seats without transferring BN/UMNO votes, but working with UMNO allowed the DAP to win by comfortable margins some of what would usually be marginal seats for the party. 

The increase in support for the DAP was highest in Negeri Sembilan, at 6.7 per cent, followed by Selangor at 5.2 per cent Penang at 4.3 per cent and finally Kedah at 1.4 per cent. 

In general, DAP gained the largest transfer of Malay votes from older voters who show stronger allegiance to BN. These findings show that UMNO’s grassroots outreach is still somewhat effective among older voters but much less so among younger voters. 

The average support for PN in these DAP-contested seats increased from 13.1 per cent in GE2022 to 19.2 per cent in the 2023 state elections. Clearly, more of the Malay votes that previously supported the BN went to the Perikatan Nasional (PN) than to PH. The calculations in this article show that four out of five Malay voters who previously supported BN in these seats voted for PN in the 2023 state elections. 

Going forward, the DAP’s stranglehold over these seats may well become weaker, due to demographic changes, and if turnout and support for PH and the DAP should decrease among non-Malay voters.


  • Scrutinizing the DAP’s Success in the 2023 Malaysian State Elections
    [Whole Publication, ISBN: 9789815203424], by Ong Kian Ming, author

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