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Monday March 18, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday April 24, 2013 MYT 1:32:52 PM
by nelson benjamin
JOHOR BARU: Johor has always been regarded as “safe” for Barisan Nasional, but this time, campaigning is expected to be intense as Pakatan Rakyat has repeatedly announced its plans to make inroads into the state.
Between PAS, DAP and PKR, they are eyeing at least 12 strategic parliamentary and state seats, including five within Iskandar Malaysia Gelang Patah, Pulai, Pasir Gudang, Johor Baru and Tebrau.
Coincidentally, these seats have the most number of voters with Gelang Patah having 104,972 voters, Pulai (99,542), Pasir Gudang (98,798), Johor Baru (96,520) and Tebrau (88,447).
Other seats they are targeting are Kulai, Bakri, Kluang, Segamat, Batu Pahat and Pengerang.
Whether this is just a pipe dream for Pakatan as even in 2008 when, overall, Pakatan Rakyat parties did extremely well, they only managed to win Bakri by a small majority of 722 will be answered after the 13th general election.
Meanwhile, responding to changing times and expectations, Barisan is expected to field at least 30% new faces for the 26 parliamentary seats in the state, dropping those who have been in service for too long and inactive MPs. A few may also be moved to stand in state seats.
Among the 26 MPs in the state, at least six have served more than five terms.
Among those expected to be replaced are Kulai MP Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, Teng Boon Soon (Tebrau), Datuk Mohamad Aziz (Sri Gading), Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi (Batu Pahat), Datuk Noraini Ahmad (Parit Sulong), Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar (Kota Tinggi) and Tan Ah Eng (Gelang Patah).
There will also be many new faces among Barisan candidates for the 56 state seats as many of the current assemblymen are either too old, have been around too long or not performing.
Among those who are likely to be dropped are Datuk Osman Jais (Buloh Kasap), Datuk Ariss Samsuddin (Semerah), Datuk Ahmad Zahri Jamil (Sri Medan), Datuk Tahir Taat (Bukit Serampang), Datuk Abdullah Md Ali (Bukit Naning), Hamimah Mansor (Penawar), Datuk Zainal Abidin Osman (Endau), Dr Robiah Kosai (Sg Balang), Datuk Abdul Hamid Abd Rahman (Machap), Datuk Osman Sapian (Kempas), Datuk Harun Abdullah (Tanjung Surat), T. Murukasvary (Tenggaroh), Datuk M.M. Samy (Permas), Datuk Koh Chee Chai (Penggaram), Datuk Ng See Tiong (Parit Yaani) and Tan Kok Hong (Bekok).
Seats to watch
Presently, Johor is seen as a bastion for Barisan's component parties as Umno controls 32 state and 16 parliamentary seats, MCA (12 state and seven Parliament), MIC (four state and one Parliament) and Gerakan (two state and one Parliament).
In 2008, Umno lost two state seats, MCA (three state seats and one Parliament) and Gerakan (one state seat).
DAP has four state seats (Senai, Skudai, Bentayan, Mengkibol) and one parliamentary seat (Bakri) while PAS holds the state seats of Maharani and Sg Abong.
Other hot seats will be the Bakri parliamentary constituency which DAP won in 2008 with a slim majority of 722 votes.
State seats to watch are Maharani, won by PAS' Dr Mohammad Taslim by 158 votes, and Tangkak, won by MCA's Goh Tee Tee by 295 votes.
Another hot seat is Penggaram, which was won by Datuk Koh Chee Chai from MCA by 575 votes.
The Stulang state seat will also be interesting to watch as it is Johor's only seat that had seen a three-cornered fight since the 2004 election between Barisan, DAP and Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM).
The campaign is expected to be intense especially in nine parliamentary and 17 state seats with non-Malay majorities.
The talk about Johor getting a new mentri besar, which has been lurking around since 2004, has resurfaced. Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman has also openly expressed to Johor Umno his willingness to retire to give way to new blood but Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak may have other plans. On many occasions, he has stated that he wanted Abdul Ghani to remain especially with Iskandar reaching its “tipping point”, but there were other considerations involved.
Pakatan is aware that they will never be able to wrest control of Johor, but is confident of making its presence felt by fielding several of its high-profile leaders in the state, including PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayob.
Salahuddin, who is eyeing the Pulai parliamentary seat, is also expected to be fielded in the Nusajaya state seat.
Negotiations are ongoing between PKR and DAP for a swap involving the Gelang Patah seat.
It is learnt that in exchange for the Gelang Patah seat, PKR wants DAP to give up Segamat or Bakri and the state seats of Johor Jaya or Tangkak.
Talk is also rife that Johor DAP may replace at least two of its four state assemblymen, including Gwee Tiong Hiang (Bentayan) and Ong Kow Meng (Senai).
The latest speculation involved Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang, Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan and Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching moving to Johor.
The talk is that Lim, who is from Batu Pahat, will be among the leaders returning to spearhead the Opposition's charge in the northern part of the state while Teo is said to have bought property in Johor.
Fong, on the other hand, may want to be with her husband, Johor DAP secretary Tan Chen Choon, who is tipped to contest the Bentayan state seat.
Besides heavyweights from DAP and PAS, at least two other senior politicians in PKR including its national leaders are also expected to contest in Johor.
With more than 300,0000 new voters compared to the 2008 elections, it will be interesting to see if Pakatan will be able to make a dent in Barisan's fixed deposit state.
Johor has a total of 1,579,877 voters as of September 2012. Men make up 49.99% and women 50.01% .
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