by AZREEN HANI / graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD
THE Johor state poll will see election machineries and strong personalities become the deciding factors among voters, analysts said.
While this could be where Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalitions have the advantage of — Perikatan Nasional (PN) led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin may struggle as the sentiment is no longer similar to the 14th General Election.
“For now, what I can see is that the election is quite clear between BN and PH. In terms of existing machineries and traditional support, they have the advantage over the rest,” political analyst Dr James Chin told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) yesterday.
“As for now, I don’t think PN’s machinery is strong. The problem with PN is if it’s going to bet on Muhyiddin’s factor — he is not contesting. It is unusual and not many people know their candidates,” he said.
“It is also unusual for him to not stand in the election as well, and unlike in 2018 where the Opposition is united under (Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad, PN with only Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia as a lead may struggle to replicate the success,” he added.
Chin said voters in Johor are in for unusual mixed of selections this time around — with the entry of new parties such as the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda), Parti Pejuang Tanah Air, Parti Warisan Sabah and Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM). This could result in a split of votes not only to PH, but also BN as this is the untested ground for these parties.
“Will these parties spring a surprise?
Honestly, it depends on machinery. On paper, Umno has the advantage, but there are strong personalities from these parties that voters would favour,” he said.
A total of 239 candidates — 202 men and 37 women — will be contesting in the Johor polls, according to the Election Commission chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh.
Abdul Ghani said the oldest candidate is 71-year-old, representing PN in Bukit Permai, while two youngest candidates, aged 26, will be contesting in Mengkibol and Tangkak, from BN and Pejuang, respectively.
There are eight candidates aged below 30 contesting in the state polls, while 52 candidates were in their 30s, 72 candidates in their 40s, 64 candidates in their 50s, and 43 others aged 60 and above.
BN and PN are fielding 56 candidates each, followed by PH (30), Pejuang (42), PKR (20), Independence (16), Muda (7), Warisan (6), PBM (4), and one each from Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia and Parti Sosialis Malaysia.
There are 2.5 million registered voters who will cast their votes on March 12.
Meanwhile, Dr Bridget Welsh, honorary research associate at the University of Nottingham’s Asia Research Institute, did not dismiss the voters’ turnout as well as existing political parties’ presence to influence voters’ decision.
Noting that Johor is one of Umno’s strongholds, Welsh told TMR that Pejuang and Warisan may find it harder to convince voters than Muda, which had strategically placed themselves as an ally to PH.
“By strategically collaborating with PH, Muda have a better chance to get support from PH supporters for seats such as Puteri Wangsa,” she said.
“But what could be more important is for the parties to have a strong machinery, mobilise them and get the people out to vote when the time comes,” Welsh added, noting that this could be a challenge for newcomers such as Pejuang and Warisan.
Bernama reported BN president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying that the party does not view the situation of being involved in 35 four-cornered fights in the poll as an advantage for the party to score easy wins.
“The winds of change have begun to blow in Johor, not only among the Malays…support from Indian and Chinese voters especially in urban areas has started to shift to BN candidates,” he told reporters after attending a gathering with the people at the Ayer Hitam Barat voting district centre yesterday.