THE Nut Graph speaks to political scientist Wong Chin Huat on the exciting contest in Johor this coming general election. Will the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) make significant inroads in this Barisan Nasional (BN) bastion? Or is the BN support in Johor just too strong to overcome?
TNG: What accounts for the BN’s strong support in Johor? ...
What are the DAP’s chances of improving their performance in Johor? If so, why will it be different this time?
The DAP’s chance is tremendous as they are counting on the Chinese Johoreans “catching up” in terms of voting the opposition. When their ethnic cousins in Sarawak did that in 2011, BN component party SUPP was almost wiped out. It won only six out of 19 state seats, with only two Chinese candidates surviving the onslaught. In comparison, the party won five out of six parliamentary seats in 2008.
Out of 56 state seats in Johor, 33 or 59% have an electorate that is at least one-third ethnic Chinese. The same goes for 17 or 65% out of the 26 parliamentary seats there. Assuming the same turnout rates across voters of different ethnicity, and Chinese Johorean support for the PR at 80%, all the PR needs to win these seats is 35% support among the non-Chinese Malaysians comprising the Malays, Indians and everyone else. If the Chinese Johorean support for the PR goes up to 85%, then the required non-Chinese support drops correspondingly to 32.5%.
The DAP will only contest in six federal seats and at most 15 state seats, with the rest going to PAS and PKR. So a stronger Chinese swing towards the PR would also benefit Malay-Muslim candidates from PAS and PKR. This would include PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub, who is tipped to be the menteri besar (MB) should the PR take Johor.
How likely is it that Johor MB Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman will stand against Lim Kit Siang in Gelang Patah? Who would be the likely winner in that fight and why?
It is quite likely. Abdul Ghani is sure to leave his MB-ship as he has reportedly fallen out of favour with both the palace and ordinary Malay Johoreans who suffer rising living costs thanks to the Iskandar Malaysia project. The project has benefited mainly Singaporeans, other foreigners and the Malaysian upper-middle class rather than ordinary Malay Malaysians. According to The Malaysian Insider, Umno doesn’t want to risk an unpopular MB being rejected by the Malay Johorean electorate, as was the case in 1999 with Terengganu MB Tan Sri Wan Mokhtar Ahmad, who was MB for 25 years.
Unless he retires, which appears unlikely, having Ghani defend Gelang Patah is good for both Umno and the MCA, whatever the outcome. Ghani losing to Kit Siang in a mixed seat with a Chinese majority will mean neither Umno nor the MCA was rejected by the ethnic community they claim to represent.
If the 33.7% Malay electorate in Gelang Patah does not solidly rally behind Ghani due to the reasons stated above, Ghani will have to rely on heavy support from the so-called CIMB (Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Bangladesh) community. He is likely to lose after putting up a good fight.
Dr. Wong Chin Huat is a political scientist by training and was a journalism lecturer prior to joining the Penang Institute, a Penang government think tank.