The Star reported yesterday that the majority of UMNO Johor elected representatives had supposedly expressed support for a separate state election in an internal chat group as UMNO Johor is worried of being dragged down by universal disdain for Prime Minister Najib Razak, as well as wanting to prevent Bersatu and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin from becoming a major electoral force in Johor.
Johor DAP is ready for a separate state poll as we saw it coming as early as May 2016.
At the Johor DAP State Committee meeting on 29th May 2016, I told DAP state leaders that there would a possibility of separate state elections in Sabah and Johor. As a result, DAP Johor restructured the state committee and created an election preparation committee with the aim of completing constituency-level election preparation by the end of 2016.
At the opening of DAP Johor state-level election training workshop on 13th August 2016, I spoke publicly for the first time of the possibility of a separate state election. Some from UMNO and MCA said that I was just making it up.
Even without a tip-off from sources close to Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin in May, I would still think calling a snap poll is definitely on the table as one of the options for UMNO Johor and Khaled for the following reasons:
First, from all the polls and ground feedback in Johor, there is almost universal disdain for Najib across ethnic, gender, occupation lines. For instance, a Merdeka Centre poll for Kluang, which I commissied in August, shown that 65% of Kluang voters are not satisfied with the performance of Prime Minister Najib Razak. Again, more Malays (50%) are not satisfied with Najib than those who are satisfied (42%).
And, among government servants and GLC workers, who are usually more inclined to support the government, 45% are not satisfied with the performance of Najib, compared to 42% who are satisfied.
A similar poll on Kluang voters in February 2013 saw Najib positively rated at 59%. Among Malay voters in Kluang, 78% viewed Najib positively in February 2013 while 19% viewed him negatively. There has been a sea change of perceptions towards Najib in the past three years.
UMNO Johor is fully aware of the negative perceptions towards Najib and the potential electoral fallout as a consequence.
Second, while UMNO Johor may still continue to boast about how strong it is, the fact is that the party is scared of the potentials of Bersatu and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in creating electoral waves among previous UMNO loyalists.
There was a discerning psychological panic among UMNO leaders following the departure of Jorak state assemblyman Datuk Shahruddin Salleh from UMNO, which caused Barisan Nasional to lose its two-thirds majority in the state assembly.
UMNO Johor is hoping to call snap state polls before Bersatu is able to create waves.
DAP Johor is ready for a separate state election. I believe that Pakatan Harapan parties – Parti KeAdilan Rakyat and Parti Amanah Negera – are equally prepared.
A myth that the Opposition has to puncture is that UMNO Johor and Khaled Nordin have “delivered” as a government. In the weeks and months to come, we will challenge Khaled Nordin on policy fronts which the state government has let the people down such as public transport, water management, a potential property bubble, housing crisis, unequal development between Iskandar and central/northern Johor, environment and other issues.
Johor politics is in for interesting times and we in the Opposition will do our best in winning the hearts and minds of Johor voters. And, as we are all aware, winning Johor is crucial for the battle of Putrajaya.
(Media statement by DAP Johor Chairman and MP for Kluang Liew Chin Tong in Kluang on 17th October 2016)