During the 2018 elections, Johor became a frontline state in the struggle led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad against then-Prime Minister Najib Razak.
However, Johor fell into the hands of Umno thanks to dissident Pakatan Harapan lawmakers, much to the disappointment of PH supporters.
Until now, the biggest surprise in Malaysia following the 2018 debacle of the Umno and Barisan Nasional, was the historic Tanjung Piai Parliamentary by-election, in which Umno trounced the PH candidate.
Analysts are now wondering if the Tanjung Piai elections would serve as a barometer for the Johor state elections.
They claim that if it is the case, the Barisan candidates may rest assured that victory will be theirs.
Tanjung Piai was held on November 16, 2019. It witnessed then-Prime Minister Mahathir (who led the PH administration at the time) campaigning in Johor for his government.
However, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng of the BN emerged as the Tanjung Piai seat winner, with a majority of almost 15,000 votes.
Jeck Seng received 25,466 votes from 128 poll boxes, outnumbering his five competitors.
The stunning defeat of PH candidate Karmaine Sardini, who received 10,380 votes, shook the country to its core. It was perhaps the most sensational news piece in 2019.
Sardini ran as a candidate for Bersatu, the party created by Dr Mahathir when he left Umno in 2016 to confront Najib.
Bersatu and Umno are now in the same coalition, but they are locked in a catfight that gives the Johor state polls a different flavour from what we witnessed during the Tanjung Piai by-elections.
According to the portal Bebas News, the various situations from 2019 to 2022 might have an influence on the election results.
According to the report, in 2019, the BN component parties joined forces with the Islamist Party Islam Se-Malaysia to bring down the PH.
Jeck Seng of MCA is now the Deputy Minister of Industries, Plantations and Commodities under the Federal Government.
Contrary to 2019 when PH formed the Johor state government, BN is now the outgoing state government and its mandate ends on March 12, the day the elections will be held.
Zakir Naik and DAP
Religion and ethnicity began to play a significant role in unifying the emerging opposition groups in 2018.
The Umno and PAS formed the Muafakat Nasional, while Bersatu broke away.
The coalition was founded on the solidarity of the Malay race, which, according to Umno and PAS, was exploited by the PH, who placed a few non-Muslims to crucial posts when they took over Putrajaya.
Then there was Zakir Naik, who was blaring the horns at non-Muslims in ‘religious rallies’ or ceramah in front of 100,000 people in Kelantan.
Zakir said the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia does not have nationalistic sentiments as their hearts are bonded to China and India.
The Chinese and Indians in Malaysia were outraged. It provided the Democratic Action Party with more ammunition to fight for the Indian religious preacher’s deportation to India. But Zakir Naik was forgiven by the political powers in Putrajaya.
There was also the problem of Khat or religious calligraphy. Schools, whether private or public, were given orders to teach Islamic-based calligraphy to all pupils, whether they were Muslims or not.
The DAP was put in a tough situation at the time because of the Khat issue. The DAP, a member of the PH government, was unable to completely support the Chinese and Indian populations that banded together to oppose Khat teaching in schools. This went against them in the elections.
The Zakir Naik incident, as well as claims levelled against its members of Indian descent that they were associated with the outlawed and defunct Tamil Tigers military force from Sri Lanka, were politically deadly for the DAP.
Nevertheless, I think in the Tanjung Piai by-elections, there were enough reasons for the Keadilan not to want the Bersatu candidate to win the polls since a larger setback for Mahathir’s party would come as a shock to the elederly statesman who had been twisting his tongue over his promised departure!
The MUDA Party
Another significant difference in the 2022 state elections is the existence of the MUDA, the young party led by ex-Sports Minister and Dr Mahathir acolyte Syed Saidqq.
Coupled with MUDA’s initial excursion into the fray of elections is the fact that young people under the age of 18 may now vote in elections.
These may offer even more shocks, since MUDA has a roster full of popular young faces.
The Malaysian United Democratic Alliance or MUDA has declared that vice president Lim Wei Jiet, co-founder Nurafiqah M. Zulkifli, and state leader Azrol Rahani would run for the Johor state poll.
MUDA president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman stated in an online event that their selection was part of the party’s goal to having youthful and active leaders in service of the people of Johor.
The nomination of the three Muda leaders in this election is consistent with Muda’s attempts to promote youthful leaders who are involved in service politics and are constantly focused on developing a fair and equitable policy for Johor, he says.
Nonetheless, much has altered in Malaysia’s political scene since Mahathir’s Bersatu’s Tanjung Piai catastrophe.
Not only is Bersatu battling Mahathir’s Pejuang in Johor, but Keadilan is a reduced party due to the departure of MPs, and Umno is fighting allies PAS and Bersatu.
While the opposition is fragmented, the ruling coalition has lost the plot now that it is in power after effectively deposing the PH in Johor.
Nonetheless, some local political analysts feel Johor has lost its status as a “frontline” state in national politics since it is practically inevitable for the fragmented opposition to win the Johor polls though the Umno and its warring allies are not offering a better alternative.