KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian opposition is set to face vote-splitting multi-cornered fights for at least 20 out of 22 parliamentary seats, and 44 out of 56 state seats in its prized state Selangor in the coming Malaysia general election.
Like Dr Mahathir Mohamad-led Pakatan Harapan, federal ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) is fielding candidates in all parliamentary and state seats in Selangor, one of only three opposition states in the country.
Pakatan's former ally, Islamist party PAS, however, may well split the vote in the majority of these seats. In 2013, it helped Pakatan win 13 out of 56 state seats to form government.
This time, PAS is going it alone, contesting more than double the number of state seats it ran in in 2013 and almost three times as many parliament seats.
PAS had told Channel NewsAsia that this was not an attempt to help rumoured new ally BN gain an advantage in Selangor, but that these are seats it planned to contest all along.
BN lost Malaysia's richest state to Pakatan two elections ago, and its leadership said it is determined to win it back this time.
Analysts have said multi-cornered fights and the redrawing of electoral boundaries, which came into force last month, could significantly increase BN's chances in Selangor - but that is still no guarantee of success in the largely urban, multiethnic state.
SEATS TO WATCH
These polls will see the opposition's parliamentary leader, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, give up the Permatang Pauh seat in Penang that she first won in 1999, to come down to Pandan.
The incumbent from her party, Rafizi Ramli, was sentenced to 30 months' jail earlier this year for exposing confidential bank details of a corporation at the centre of a scandal six years ago. The seat is considered relatively safe, with Rafizi winning almost 60 per cent of the votes in 2013.
Barisan Nasional Selangor chief and cabinet minister Noh Omar will defend his seat in Tanjong Karang. Like in many seats held by his party UMNO, he will face a candidate from splinter group, Bersatu - Dr Zulkaferi Hanafi.
There will be new, young faces fielded as well this time around to appeal to the significant youth vote.
BN will field 57-first time candidates, including UMNO Youth exco member Shahril Sufian Hamdan, 30, in the opposition-held Kuala Langat parliamentary seat. He will be going up against a new contender, PKR vice-president Xavier Jayakumar.
Marginal parliament seats in Selangor will also be closely watched. In Kuala Selangor, BN's Irmohziham Ibrahim won with less than 1 per cent majority in 2013, against the incumbent PAS candidate, Dzulkefly Ahmad.
Dzulkefly is now with PAS splinter group and Pakatan component party, Parti Amanah Negara, and he will be attempting to wrest the seat back. But with redelineation exercises affecting it and PAS fielding its own candidate there too, this fight could go either way.
There are similar scenarios of three-cornered fights in other marginal seats such as Sepang, which is held by a PAS-turned-Amanah MP Hanipa Maidin who has a 1.5 per cent majority against a BN candidate.
Sungai Besar will also be closely watched – it was won by BN's Noriah Kasnon with a 1 per cent majority against a PAS candidate.
Following redelineation exercises, Selangor is now also home to the biggest parliament seats in Malaysia - Bangi and Damansara.
Both constituencies held by the opposition have an excess of 160,000 voters each compared to the more than 40,000 voters in BN-held Sabak Bernam, the smallest parliament seat in the country which is also in Selangor.
As Malaysia practices a first-past-the-post voting system, the opposition has criticised these voter allocations as unfair, saying they would have to work harder to win one seat compared to BN, who generally has fewer voters in their seats.
BN Selangor, however, has dismissed these claims - arguing that the new electoral boundaries are more fair and the opposition is simply looking for an excuse should they perform badly.