Much to learn from Johor polls

You wouldn’t let your grandparents pick your playlist. Why would you let them pick your representative who’s going to determine your future?

— Barack Obama, former US President

THE Johor state election will be the third state polls that the nation will see since November last year – the other two being the Melaka and Sarawak state polls.

This came after the southernmost state had its legislature dissolved on Saturday (Jan 22).

To many, this has been dubbed as the prelude to the big one – the general election, one which the federal government and the opposition agreed to not hold until at least August this year, according to the two parties’ memorandum of understanding (MoU).

The Johor polls ensued following the ruling state government’s flimsy majority of one in the 56-seat assembly after the death of a government assemblyman.

This led to Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar assenting to signing the proclamation of dissolution for the Johor state assembly to pave way for a state election.

To observers, this could be the final state election before the general election is called where its results could also dictate the timing for the dissolution of Parliament.

Currently, the wind is blowing towards the direction of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

The Umno-Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has seen a resurgence in the past few years since its fall from grace in the 14th general election (GE14).

This was partly due to the lacklustre performance of its successor, Pakatan Harapan (PH), whose antics of its leaders has been seen as putting politics ahead of the people’s interest.

While many were in support of a change in government in the last general election, the sentiments have changed.

The people now are more mature and they realise the impact of political stability at the federal level which had dampened the nation’s economic recovery and performance.Malaysia, since GE14, has had three prime ministers – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (BERSATU) and UMNO’s Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Johor, said to be a Bersatu stronghold by virtue of being its president Muhyiddin’s home state, is likely to be overrun in the upcoming state polls due to the overwhelming sentiments.

This lack of belief in retaining Johor for BERSATU is said to be the reason that the former premier and state menteri besar to not defend his Gambir seat in the legislature.

The upcoming state polls will also see new political parties at play with Malay United Democratic Alliance (MUDA) and Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (PEJUANG) vying for seats.

Parti Warisan Sabah (WARISAN) is also mulling to make its debut in a peninsular state, possibly making the state election a five or six-way showdown with Barisan Nasional (PN), Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the fold.

While the cracks are getting more severe between BN and PN – both making up the federal government – due to its backbone, UMNO and BERSATU respectively being at loggerheads at each other, there is also friction in the PH camp.

PH parties will be contesting under two symbols – Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) will be using their oval-shaped symbol while the two other components, Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Amanah Negara (AMANAH) will be using the coalition’s arrowhead design.

This had many speculating that PKR is not on the best of the terms with its component parties given that party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is also the coalition’s chairman.

The Johor polls will also be the first state election held after Undi18 has been implemented with an influx of new voters expected.

This would be a litmus test on the effectiveness of the implementation after its Bill was passed unanimously in Parliament in July 2019. The results and voting pattern of those aged 18-21 will be put under the microscope and will answer questions on who this group is siding with.

The opposition would have people believe that the youth are with them through a string of propaganda and the presence of youthful leaders.

But to me, seeing is believing and I still stand by my assessment that the sentiments have changed. The youths are now mature seeing first-hand the importance of a stable and functioning government.

Regardless while we still have many questions, the next few weeks and the results of the Johor state election will give prompt answers.

While UMNO are definite favourites to take Johor, the new elements at play will give observers something to think about.

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