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BN’s major victories in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar on Saturday proved that a divided opposition cannot defeat the ruling coalition.

But what if the circumstances changed?
Could the opposition have won in a parallel universe where things were different?

Alternate Reality #1
In this alternate reality, Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali succeeds in negotiating with PAS, ensuring straight fights in both parliamentary seats. Let’s assume that Parti Amanah Negara contests in Selangor while PAS does battle in Perak.

Alternate Reality #2
In another reality, the battle royale between BN, PAS and Amanah still occurs but under different rules.

In this universe, Malaysia has a slightly more refined democracy and practises the alternative vote system, where voters can cast their ballots for more than one candidate in the order of their liking, instead of the first past the post system.

Both “realities” are idealistic fantasies , and surely the opposition would have won under these circumstances, right?

First of all, even if you combined PAS and Amanah’s votes, BN would have still won in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by 2,289 and 2,086 votes respectively.

“But, a straight fight or a different system would have encouraged people to vote opposition!” you might argue.

Again, no.

It’s a simplistic view, and while definitely possible, doesn’t take into account certain aspects.

First of all, PAS and Amanah despise each other, and it is likely PAS supporters would rather vote for BN than cast a ballot for the treacherous orange oath-breakers backed by DAP.

Likewise, those aligned with Amanah and non-Muslim voters would probably opt to boycott the polls than vote for green extremists who want to chop people’s hands off.

“For multi-cornered fights not based on ideological differences but driven by mere inter-party rivalry, such as DAP and PKR in Sarawak, an alternative electoral system like Australia’s alternative vote or France’s two-round system can overcome that.

“But when multi-corners are due to ideological differences or bitter rivalries that supporters of two camps cannot pull themselves to support each other, like PAS to non-Muslims and liberals, or Amanah to PAS hardcores, alternative voting or the two-round system does not work. Even straight fights may bring little improvements,” Penang Institute fellow Wong Chin Huat told Malaysiakini.

These factors would also affect the campaigning efforts by other parties such as DAP and PKR, which had an impact in the real world, albeit not enough to hurt BN.

So even in these alternate realities, the opposition appears to be doomed.

However, just because it didn’t work this time doesn’t mean that politicians negotiating during elections, or pushing for a new electoral system are flawed ideas.

Either situation would encourage a healthier democracy, and a new voting system could even encourage the growth of smaller parties, giving the people more choices on who they want to elect.

Because why not?

Perhaps, the time has come to look towards a third, fourth, fifth or even a possible sixth force in the long run, since the current two appear to give us Malaysians little hope.

ZIKRI KAMARULZAMAN is a member of the Malaysiakini team.

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