March 5, 2018.
FOR a very long time, since the state’s first elections in 1954 and followed by the first national elections a year later, Johor was very much a bastion of the Barisan Nasional, notably Umno.
But that was to change drastically in the last general elections in 2013.
It was a much needed reality check, some say, after the federal ruling coalition lost five parliamentary and 18 state seats.
Worse was that the coalition suffered a massive slide in support in several urban and semi-urban constituencies that used to be its strongholds.
|List of BNParliamentary constituencies in Johor with less than 2,000 majority votes after GE13|
|Constituency||GE 2008||GE 2013|
|Pasir Gudang||17, 281||935|
|Ledang||7, 617||1, 967|
|Tebrau||14, 658||1, 767|
|Muar||4, 661||1, 646|
|Segamat||2, 991||1, 217|
Emboldened by this backdrop, the current opposition pact Pakatan Harapan has made it secret of its intention to dislodge Johor BN in the next elections many anticipate will be held next month.
This however does not seem to worry state BN chairman Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin, also the mentri besar.
“They (PH) can say whatever they want but I’m telling you it’s not going to be an easy fight. We have been servicing the people. We believe they can see what we have done for them,” he told The Mole in a recent interview.
As claimed by Khaled, Johoreans, especially those of the lower income, sounded grateful for the state government’s charitable initiatives.
“I went to a nearby Umno office to ask for help and they managed to secure some financial assistance from Tekun and the MyKasih allowance,” said Pasir Gudang voter Sellamah Kalieannan, whose husband suffered a stroke.
Tekun is a small-time entrepreneurial economic fund while MyKasih is a monthly food allowance programme initiated by the government.
“I know some may think RM80 a month is not much but for people like me, every single cent helps,” added the mother of three who drives a school van for a living.
Sellamah, along with several other beneficiaries of the state government’s welfare programmes, described Khaled is an on-the-ground leader.
Khaled said he needs to be such a leader to gauge the effectiveness of his administration’s policies.
“Because at the end of the day, it’s not just about economic growth. We must also ensure that the economy can really bring about prosperity,” he said.
While the poor appeared to be supportive of BN, the jury however is still out among those in the higher income bracket.
Several Johor Malays from this income group declared that while they do not have any major issues with Khaled’s administration, they remain unhappy with certain policies at the federal level.
|Merdeka Centre survey on Johoreans’s view of BN Johor|
|♦ A recent Merdeka Centre survey of 1,007 respondents in Johor found that more than half were dissatisfied with the federal government’s handling of the economy.|
|♦ More than 62 per cent believed that economic conditions had worsened compared to a year ago, while 22 per cent said it was better.|
|♦ A significant number of Johoreans also did not take kindly to a question on whether they agreed with a national leader who advised the public to be thrifty in the face of high inflation.|
This, however, does not seem to dampen the optimism within the Johor BN’s camp as many argue that such dissatisfaction may not necessarily translate into support for Pakatan.
An Umno official also alluded to the fact that turnout at many of Pakatan’s ceramah (talk) has been getting smaller.
“The people are getting tired of PH’s ridiculous politicking,” he said in reference to a ceramah in Impian Emas, Johor Bahru, where Pribumi Bersatu Youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman described DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang as a cute grandfather because they both play Pokemon Go!
There were also contentions that Johoreans are shying away from these opposition gatherings because Pribumi Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had claimed that many Umno supporters in Johor are waiting for the right time to back Pribumi Bersatu.
However, several elderly Johoreans said what really deterred them from supporting Pribumi Bersatu is the party’s relationship with DAP and they kept on referring to one contest in GE13.
“We’re grateful of Dr Mahathir’s (Pribumi Bersatu chairman Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad) contributions to the country but Ghani’s loss to Kit Siang was illogical,” said a man who only wanted to be identified as Ibrahim.
|BN’s Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Othman VS DAP’s Lim Kit Siang in GE13|
|♦ Lim won with a majority of 14, 762 votes despite him being a DAP parachute candidate while Ghani was a well-liked mentri besar at that time.|
Ibrahim said those who shared his indecisiveness have decided to vote based on the performance of candidates instead of the party.
“Familiar faces who have been helping me will get my vote. At least they have shown me that they are dependable,” he said.
Apparently, such a sentiment coincided with Khaled’s candidate selection strategy where Johor BN will only field local candidates.
“Local candidates will be loyal to their area and because they know their area, they will perform in their area. In our survey, the top three weakest elected representatives are that of the opposition. Some electorates don’t even know who their representatives are,” said Khaled.