Barisan Nasional’s (BN) victory in the Johor elections was mainly due to disunity among opposition parties, observers said.
They told The Malaysian Insight the win will also put Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob under tremendous pressure from certain Umno warlords to call for an early general election.
BN won 40 out of the 56 seats in Johor, a Pakatan Harapan (PH) with only DAP and Amanah won 11, while PKR, which used its own logo, won one.
Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) won three seats, with the former prime minister calling themselves “underdogs”. Youth-based party Muda, an ally of PH, won one seat.
None of the other new parties, including Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pejuang and PKR splinter Parti Bangsa Malaysia, won any seats. All their candidates lost their deposits.
There are 2.59 million voters registered, including 18-year-olds and new voters under the automatic voter registration system in the state elections.
However, the voter turnout was low. As of 4pm, two hours before polling ended, just 50% of voters had cast their ballots, according to the Election Commission.
Ilham Centre executive director Hisommudin Bakar said if the opposition parties had been united and faced off directly with BN, the results of the state polls may have been different.
“The friction among PH, Muda, PN, Warisan and Pejuang gave BN victory in Johor.
“The irony is, the higher the number of votes PN received from Malay voters, the higher the chances of BN winning the state. It meant that the Malay votes that PH obtained in the last general election now went to PN.
“The opposition should unite if they want to win the next election. PN takes a little vote from here, Muda takes a little vote from here and PH takes a little from here. In the end, there are not enough votes to win against BN. If we add up the votes received by the opposition, BN surely will not win, or at least BN won’t get the two-thirds supermajority,” Hisommudin said.
Hisommudin said the low voter turnout gave BN a “super advantage”.
“The low voter turnout gave BN the upper hand as they secured the Malay votes in the majority of Malay seats.
“Chinese voters who came back to vote in the general election did not come home this time, thus giving MCA the advantage. Like Umno, MCA has its own hardcore supporters in Chinese majority seats. So, when the younger generation, many of whom voted for PH last time, did not return home, PH lost this segment of voters,” he said.
Pressure mounts on Ismail Sabri
James Chin of Tasmania University said Ismail will be under so much pressure from pro-Najib Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s camp to call for an early election, following the coalition’s thumping win in Johor.
He said Ismail will be out of his job should BN win in the next general election.
“It is clear that BN wants to use this momentum and call for an early election. Most probably in June. Ismail will be under heavy pressure.
Although under pressure, Ismail has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as part of a reform deal that could buy him some time, provided Umno feels obliged to follow it.
Ismail had signed the MOU last September 13, and had agreed that a dissolution of Parliament will not be pursued up till July 31, 2022.
Among the key areas of reform outlined in the pact is to transform the administration, empower Parliament and strengthen judicial independence.
In a statement in January, PKR communications chief Fahmi Fadzil said 13 of the 18 items in the MOU had been implemented.
One of the key demands in the MOU was the creation of an anti-party hopping law to stop lawmakers from defecting to another party.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has promised that Putrajaya will push through the change in the current Parliament meeting.
PH has to look beyond Anwar
Chin said that PH has to look beyond PKR president and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim if they want to win in the next general election.
Chin had correctly predicted the outcome of Johor polls a day before the election took place. He said BN will win two-thirds majority, adding that PKR and DAP would suffer huge defeats.
“Anwar has lost his political aura. Losing three straight polls is a big political mistake. Of course, you can make mistakes but you cannot make three huge mistakes in a row,” he said.
“If they use Anwar to lead PH, they will again suffer. Another problem for PH is that they could not explain to their voters their failures in the 22 months they were in power.
“As for MCA, they cannot be too happy. One is because the Chinese didn’t come out to vote and secondly, the Chinese are performance-based voters. If you don’t deliver, you are not going to win in the future.”
Pejuang has no future in GE15
As for Pejuang, Chin said the party may not be able to do much in the near future as it cannot sell anything beyond Dr Mahathir’s image.
“Pejuang is Dr Mahathir’s fan club party. Nothing more than that. They have no chance in GE15. They cannot sell anything else other than Dr Mahathir.
“The next battle will only be between opposition Malays versus Umno Malays. There is not going to be Pejuang Malays against Umno Malays,” he said.
Hisommudin agreed with Chin on Pejuang.
He said Pejuang needed a post-mortem after the Johor polls and to come up with new “branding”.
“They need to look at this defeat. They were very bad. Even Muda fared better.
“They can’t rely on Dr Mahathir. If they enter the general election with this momentum, they will lose all of their deposits,” he said.
PH no match for BN
Academy Nusantara for Strategic Research Azmi Hassan on the other hand said PH has to find its mojo should it want to win GE15.
Failing to do so, he said, PH can say goodbye to its plans to capture Putrajaya.
“They could not give BN a fight. That is what is surprising. Not BN’s victory. DAP’s stronghold was lost and the momentum for BN is huge.
“PH has to do something if they want to win the next election,” he said.
The former academic mirrored Chin’s sentiment that Ismail will be pressured by his colleagues to call for an early election.
“Surely Ismail will be in the hot seat. Many will be asking him to dissolve the Parliament come Monday,” he said. – TMI