Welcome to DataTarik

Welcome to DataTarik

We’re still trying to understand what happened on May 9th, 2018. A few days after the election, a group of Malaysians started (separately) collecting and exploring data to answer the same question: What happened in Malaysia’s 14th General Election? 

When we realized we were after the same answers, we started collaborating and DataTarik was born. We aim to pull insights from data, and like all Malaysians, we love teh tarik.

There has been plenty of insightful commentary offering explanations for the momentous GE14 results. Our goal is to contribute to the conversation by focusing on data, because we believe data tells the most truthful stories.

The story

The opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH, translation: Alliance of Hope) wrested control of the federal government from the incumbent Barisan Nasional (BN, translation: National Front) in GE14. For this first article in our series, we’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the election results. 

The following graph (left) displays the total number of parliamentary seats won by BN, PH, and PAS. A coalition needs 112 out of the 222 parliamentary seats for a simple majority (indicated by the dashed line). In GE14, PH won 124 seats (this includes those won by WARISAN and BEBAS, which aligned themselves with PH despite not being formal members of the coalition – parliamentary democracies are annoyingly complex).

GE14 results

The graph above (right) zooms in on the constituencies won by each party/coalition and displays the number of votes they won. When PH and PAS won a seat, they did so with a large number of votes (the average for PH was 39,524, the average for PAS was 34,055). In contrast, when BN won a seat, it did so with way fewer votes (the BN average was 18,788). In other words, PH and PAS needed more votes to elect each of their representatives than BN did. 

There are interesting stories to be told about how the sizes and boundaries of the constituencies affected the election outcome, and how the votes of voters in some constituencies are more “valuable” than others. We’ll get to these in a future post.

Swing from GE13

Pakatan Harapan’s strong performance requires some context. Back in 2008’s GE12, the opposition made historic gains, denying BN its customary 2/3rds supermajority for the first time by winning 82 seats. The opposition further improved on their performance in 2013’s GE13, winning the popular vote, and 89 seats. How did they make the jump from 89 seats in 2013 to 121 seats in 2018?

The following graph displays the change in support within each constituency from GE13 to GE14 for BN and PH.


Pakatan Harapan improved their performance in 75% of the seats they contested (most data points for PH show increases in their vote margins). This resulted in PH flipping an amazing 32 BN-held seats (the blue points). They reduced their margins by large amounts in a few seats, and lost 14 of these (the orange points) – 1 to BN and 13 to PAS. The 13 they lost to PAS were already held by PAS, who exited the coalition in 2015 (basically taking their seats with them).

In contrast to PH’s strong performance, Barisan Nasional performed worse in 87% of the seats they contested, losing 38 seats (and gaining one in a three-cornered fight in Bukit Gantang, Perak). BN reduced their margins by smaller amounts than the few places in which PH were hit hard by PAS, but the decreases in support for BN happened nationwide.

Beyond the seat-tally, the data tells a story of how comprehensively Pakatan Harapan outperformed Barisan Nasional, and how PAS played a role in the final election outcome.

Stay tuned

As we chart a course in this new Malaysia, good journalism will be necessary for raising the level of political discourse and public engagement. To help foster this, we will provide independent and data-driven analysis of issues and events concerning Malaysia.

We have many more stories to share about Malaysia’s GE14. The data gives us insights about voter turnout, the types of constituencies each coalition/party was successful in, and the influence of the electoral map as a result of malapportionment and gerrymandering. 

We look forward to sharing these (and many other) stories with you.

Malapportionment in GE14

Malapportionment in GE14