June 15 2017
Early this month, Pas announced that it will be contesting 17 parliamentary and 40 state seats in Johor in the next general election.
Johor Pas commissioner Abdullah Husin said the party had identified the seats but would not reveal them for now.
It was a significant increase from the eight parliamentary and 31 state seats that the party contested in the last general election in 2013.
Johor has 26 parliamentary seats and 56 state seats.
In that 2013 general election, Johor Pas lost all the parliamentary constituencies it contested and won just four of the state seats, namely Sungai Abong, Maharani, Parit Yaani and Puteri Wangsa.
Pas then lost one of the four state seats after Parit Yaani assemblyman Aminolhuda Hassan crossed over to its splinter party, Amanah.
The Islamist party’s decision to increase the number of seats it will contest should therefore be baffling for many as Pas is definitely not in its best position in Johor at the moment.
It could not possibly hope to win more non-Malay votes as it is no longer in the main opposition coalition and on top of that most of its key Johor leaders in 2013 such as former vice-president Sallahuddin Ayub, former youth chief Suhaizan Kayat and Felda second generation activist Mazlan Aliman are all now with Amanah.
Despite BN’s significant losses in the last general election, Pas’ main rival, Umno did well in Johor by winning 15 of the 17 parliamentary seats it contested and losing only two of 31 contested state seats.
Umno’s Malay vote bank in Johorremained intact in 2013 with current Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin being quoted as saying that an estimated 83 per cent of Malays who cast their vote in the state that year chose to support BN.
Pas, even at the height of the opposition’s influence at that time, had failed to truly penetrate Johor and in most instances actually relied more on non-Malay votes coming especially from supporters of its current arch enemy DAP.
All four state constituencies that it won in 2013 were not outright Malay areas.
Voters in Sungai Abong were made up of 51 per cent Malays, 45 per cent Chinese and 3 per cent Indians. It is almost the same in Maharani (55 per cent Malays, 42 per cent Chinese, 2 per cent Indians), Parit Yaani (54 per cent Malays, 43 per cent Chinese) and Puteri Wangsa (40 per cent Malays, 47 per cent Chinese, 12 per cent Indians).
Pas did not do well in all Malay heartland constituencies in Johor such as those in Pontian, Kota Tinggi and Mersing.
Based on the current trend where Pas is getting less popular among the pro-opposition non-Malay voters, it is doubtful that the party could even retain its three remaining state seats in Johor.
The only possible significant impact of Pas fielding more candidates in Johor should therefore be the party ensuring that its die hard supporters do not cross over to especially Amanah and the other opposition parties.
This should actually be beneficial to Umno in three cornered fights against Pas on one side, and Amanah or Pribumi on another. Malay voters who oppose Umno would be split between Pas and either Amanah or Pribumi.
It is therefore not too brash to speculate that if Pas proceeds to field as many candidates as it announced in Johor, the party may even need to be ready to lose a lot of its candidates’ deposit money.