Barisan Nasional (BN) won the Johor state election on Saturday (Mar. 12) in a landslide victory, securing a super majority in the state assembly with 40 out of 56 seats.
This is the second time in four months that the coalition, led by Malaysia’s largest party Umno, has won resoundingly in local elections, with the first time being the Melaka polls in November last year.
Both victories have positioned BN well for the next general election, due to be held by July 2023.
Since its shock defeat four years ago by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition, a win in the general election would be a much sought-after comeback by the coalition.
It remains to be seen if Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri will call for early general election, but here’s who won and who lost in the Johor state polls.
When you win the polls, you are a winner.
The BN has kept its momentum from the Melaka polls, and won big again in Johor. Its stellar performance exceeded the expectations of the coalition according to Ismail Sabri, who’s also Umno’s vice-president, Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported.
Following its victory, Umno member Onn Hafiz Ghazi was also sworn in as Johor’s new chief minister on Mar. 15.
Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (ADUN) Machap, Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi mengangkat sumpah sebagai Menteri Besar Johor Ke-19 di hadapan DYMM Sultan Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar hari ini (15 Mac) di Balai Mengadap Istana Bukit Serene, Johor Bahru. pic.twitter.com/n1WJFxnXud
— UMNO Online (@umnoonline) March 15, 2022
BN’s critics, such as Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin, have argued that the winners’ share of the popular vote does not reflect the will of all eligible voters, due to low voter turnout.
However, in an electoral system that only takes into account the ballots which have been cast, this is inconsequential, The Malaysian Insight opined.
Still, low voter turnout in both Melaka and Johor might be a reflection of voters’ disillusionment towards the political environment in the country.
Political watchers are now waiting to see if Ismail Sabri will be calling for an early general election soon this year, given that the current winning momentum from the state polls have greatly bolstered the bloc’s chances at the nationwide elections.
However, despite pressure from Umno to do so, he said he won’t be rushed into doing that.
Ismail Sabri’s considerations
According to New Straits Times, Ismail Sabri said, “We cannot hold GE15 just because one small group is shouting for elections to be held. Discussions on elections is a major thing and it has to be seriously discussed in the party.”
Nevertheless, with mounting pressure from his own party to dissolve parliament and pave the way for them to continue its winning streak, it remains to be seen how long he could ignore these calls.
As political commentator James Chin pointed out, Ismail Sabri is not in the same Umno faction as Najib Razak or party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
With Najib taking most of the plaudits for the victory, there is a possibility that Ismail Sabri could be replaced as the party’s candidate for prime minister in the next election.
The Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda), a youth-led political party helmed by Syed Saddiq, who was formerly a member of Bersatu and Malaysia’s youngest minister, managed to win a seat out of the seven it contested.
The result was despite the party being an “underdog”, the charismatic leader said, Malay Mail reported.
Being a new kid on the block, the single seat the party won gave it some needed legitimacy, and proved that it has actual electorate support beyond its popularity on social media.
The win also signified that the party could stay in Malaysia’s political scene for the long term.
MCA and MIC
The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), which together with Umno, form BN, managed to take four and three seats respectively (Umno contributed 33 seats to their victory).
MCA’s candidate managed to wrestle a seat from Democratic Action Party’s (DAP) incumbent as well, in what’s considered a rather notable gain. DAP, which makes up the PH coalition, suffered a loss of four seats, leaving it with 10.
MCA and MIC’s wins have also proven that the bloc is able to attract both the Malay and non-Malay vote.
Political analysts, however, opined that these ethnic parties need to rely on Umno’s “court cluster” in order to gain a foothold among the electorate.
According to FMT, “court cluster” here refers to prominent Umno leaders who have been embroiled in criminal charges, such as former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been convicted and sentenced to 12 years for corruption linked to the 1MDB state investment fund.
Despite being found guilty of his role in the 1MDB scandal, Najib’s popularity has seen a turnaround, attracting crowds wherever he goes, including Chinese Malaysians.
This has been attributed to the electorate’s overarching concern with bread and butter issues currently, rather than the issues that prompted them to vote PH into office in 2018.
The opposition recorded a mostly underwhelming performance.
The PH coalition lost 15 seats, leaving it 12 — a sharp reversal considering its victory in the general elections in 2018.
Pejuang, the new party led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, had a poor showing as well, with all 42 candidates failing to win the seats they contested in. It lost all its deposits as well, which amounted to at least RM210,000 (S$66,552).
PN fared poorly as well, only winning three out of the 56 seats it contested in.
Muhyiddin, a Johor stalwart, had even offered to resign as chairman after the party’s dismal performance, Malaysiakini reported.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), led by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim performed poorly this time as well, only managing to secure one seat — it won five seats back in 2018.
The party had already seen defeats in both Melaka and Sarawak.
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Top image adapted via Amira Aisya/Twitter & Onn Hafiz/Facebook