The Johor state election is due to the power struggle between the Najib-Zahid and Sabri-Muhyiddin teams.
Johor Sultan Ibrahim dissolved the state assembly after he met with Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad and agreed to pave the way for an election for the state of Johor. Hasni argued that an election was essential so that some investors and businesses can expand their operations in the southern state of Malaysia.
The state, which was being ruled by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), a corrupt political party that lost the state for the first time in the 2018 General Election, also argued that an election was needed because the Johor state government was in a “precarious position” due to its razor-thin one-seat majority, despite Opposition’s MOU to support Sabri administration.
Johor UMNO has insisted that the state election was not due to internal power struggle between the Minister Cluster (Prime Minister Ismail Sabri faction) and Court Cluster (former PM Najib Razak and UMNO president Zahid Hamidi). Instead, the Johor UMNO claimed that it is a democratic process, not to mention a new mandate from the people was necessary to establish a stable government.
Hilariously, Sultan Ibrahim, who consented to dissolve the Johor State Legislative Assembly on Saturday (Jan 22), had previously warned the Opposition not to destabilize the same razor-thin UMNO state government – threatening to dissolve the state assembly. Even though Johor was having a high number of Covid-19 cases back in August 2021, the Omicron variant is spreading now.
At the same time, it’s interesting that the Opposition Pakatan Harapan is rejecting a state election now when they were eager for a poll last August. It’s not rocket science that Johor UMNO and the pro-UMNO monarch have agreed to a state election now because UMNO has emerged stronger, while the opposition disagreed because it has become weaker.
However, there are at least 10 top reasons why the UMNO Court Cluster had been fighting tooth and nail to trigger the Johor state election. And the crooks like Najib and Zahid have again proven that UMNO is miles more cunning than not only the Opposition but power-crazy traitors like former PM Muhyiddin, in politicking and scheming.
- To humiliate and terminate rival Muhyiddin
Even though Muhyiddin, president of Bersatu and leader of Perikatan Nasional coalition, is the biggest governing partner in the federal government that UMNO is leading (out of a marriage of convenience), the bad blood between two former prime ministers – Muhyiddin and Najib – has reached the boiling point. In fact, Bersatu (PPBM), a splinter party of UMNO, is seen as the biggest threat to UMNO.
While it’s true that the fragile Perikatan Nasional (PN) is fast losing its influence, the coalition is still a threat to UMNO’s dominance, especially when it still managed to grab two seats out of 15 that it contested in the Melaka state election about three months ago (Nov 2021). The best way to kill PN is to defeat and humiliate “Malay first” Muhyiddin in his own southern state – Johor.
Not only is Mahiaddin alias Muhyiddin Member of Parliament for the Johor constituency of Pagoh, but he was also Chief Minister of the state from 1986 to 1995. Crucially, his party PPBM projected itself as a party that champions the Malay agenda – a position traditionally dominated by UMNO. In essence, Johor will serve as the battleground to determine which party the Malays will choose.
- To increase discontent within PAS
Since PAS was wiped out in the Melaka state election, losing all the eight seats it contested, its president – Hadi Awang – is caught in “Catch-22” situation. If Hadi abandons PN now, he would be mocked as ungrateful and laughed at for foolishly betting the wrong horse. But if Hadi stubbornly insists that PAS remains in PN, the party would definitely lose power in the 15th national election.
The fact that Khairuddin Aman Razali, a PAS central committee member, was sacked by Hadi due to the former’s preference to align PAS with UMNO instead suggests that not only the Islamist party is divided into two factions, but the existence of growing dissatisfaction with Hadi’s leadership. This round, UMNO wanted PAS to quit Perikatan, failing which will further split the Islamist party.
- To test 18-year-old voters for the first time
The Johor state election will see a whopping 749,731 new voters following the amendment of Article 119 to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. That constitutes almost 30% more voters comprising young voters. While UMNO had won big in the Melaka state election, grabbing 21 out of a total 28 seats and effectively winning a two-thirds majority, it was not tested for young voters’ support.
A vote for UMNO-led Barisan Nasional (BN) in Melaka does not necessarily mean a vote for it at the federal level. There are 11 seats where BN won with a majority of fewer than 1,000 votes. Worse, the turnout was only 65.85%. Therefore, Johor is being used as a testing ground or barometer to determine the young voters’ acceptance of UMNO in the next nationwide election.
- To confirm Melaka’s victory can be repeated
Sure, UMNO had won big in Melaka. But what is unsure is whether the past glory has indeed returned to the political party plagued with the 1MDB scandal and tainted with corruption. Can UMNO under Zahid Hamidi leadership and former PM Najib’s popularity offer another victory in Johor? There were warlords who were unconvinced that Melaka’s victory could be repeated elsewhere.
The voter turnout, Covid-19 pandemic, Johor battered economy, rising prices of goods, and the recent massive flood crisis were some of the factors that could affect the state’s political landscape. It’s also unknown if the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA), a new political party set up specifically for youths, will join forces with Pakatan Harapan or split the Opposition vote bank.
- To redeem UMNO’s dignity in stronghold Johor
Johor was the birthplace of UMNO, hence the defeat of the Malay nationalist party in its traditional fortress in 2018 had been extremely humiliating. To redeem itself, UMNO has to recapture Johor, a state that had been the party’s bastion since 1946 (till its stunning loss in 2018). Johor is also the third-largest Malaysian state in terms of population size, after Selangor and Sabah.
Crucially, Johor is the state with the second-highest number of parliamentary seats, after Sarawak. If UMNO could win a two-thirds majority in the upcoming state election, chances are it could also win the lion’s share of the 26 parliamentary seats in the next poll. Out of 3.6 million Johoreans, 54% are ethnic Malay while 33% are Chinese and 6% are Indian – a good yardstick to determine its acceptance.
- To return the court cluster to power
Despite what UMNO Johor says and claims, the Johor state election is due to the power struggle between the Najib-Zahid and Sabri-Muhyiddin teams. While Najib-Zahid desperately wanted the Johor state election, which would lead to a nationwide election and return both crooks to power, the weak Sabri-Muhyiddin wanted to prolong it to July 2023.
Najib might not be able to contest after he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for abuse of power, money laundering, and breach of trust (CBT). But Zahid, bogged down with corruption trials, can still contest and potentially become the next prime minister if Barisan Nasional wins the 15th General Election. He could also orchestrate a royal pardon for Najib to leverage on the former PM’s popularity.
- To pressure PM Ismail Sabri to call a snap election – or quit
The prime minister will be in trouble if Johor UMNO could pull a stunning performance like the Melaka state election. Unable to control the court cluster, Ismail Sabri has said the Johor UMNO had been given the mandate to decide the state election. This is the same face-saving drama when the weak and incompetent PM could not stop the Melaka state election in November last year.
With limited participation from Sabri in both Melaka and Johor state elections, Najib and Zahid’s next step is to force the PM, who is only ranked third in UMNO’s hierarchy, to dissolve the Parliament for a snap election this year – before an upcoming UMNO election that may see Ismail mount a challenge for the party’s presidency from Zahid. If the turtle-egg man refuses, the court cluster could withdraw their support.
- Opposition in disarray and its leadership is weak
Under the weak leadership of Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition – Pakatan Harapan – is running around like a headless chicken. And the proof is in the pudding. The Opposition has suffered spectacular defeats in both Melaka and Sarawak state elections. Anwar’s own party PKR or People’s Justice Party was practically wiped out, unable to win even a single seat.
It’s not rocket science that the best time to win an election is when the opponent is at its weakest. And you know the opposition would lose big when they prefer to maintain the status quo rather than recapture the state through an election. The more Pakatan Harapan, and even Muhyiddin’s boys, disagrees with the state election, the more confident UMNO is about their chances to win big.
- Chinese voters are disillusioned or angry at DAP
Like it or not, the Chinese voters, of whom up to 95% had voted for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) during the 2018 General Election, had chosen to stay at home as a sign of protest during the Melaka state election. Worse, the ethnic Chinese in Sarawak had decided to abandon DAP in droves during the December state election, leaving the party with only two seats, down from seven (2016 state election).
The Chinese were particularly mad with the Opposition, especially when DAP bent over to be screwed by UMNO, agreeing to sign an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri on September 13. They simply could not understand why DAP keeps barking at Ismail Sabri’s unelected government’s double standards and incompetence, yet was dumb enough to support the PM.
- Capitalizing on Covid pandemic
The dirty tricks of working hand-in-glove with the Election Commission in disallowing face-to-face campaigning and banning political gatherings had worked like a charm for Melaka UMNO. A low voter turnout is normally favorable to Barisan Nasional. There’s nothing to suggest that Johor will see a high turnout of 80% and above, which would spell trouble for UMNO.
It was already bad that opposition supporters were highly demoralized and tired due to political fatigue. It becomes worse when most of the outstation opposition supporters, spooked by the Omicron variant, will most likely skip the Johor state election. The people’s priority is the bread-and-butter issue, not politicians who are seen as untrustworthy. – Finance Twitter