Turnout likely to be decisive

JOHOR BARU: Since the events of the “Sheraton Move” in February 2020, voters have been staying away, with the turnout steadily decreasing in subsequent elections.

And when Johor goes to the polls today, it could well record the lowest turnout yet.

The Chini by-election in July 2020 saw a 73.8% turnout, followed by the Slim by-election in August 2020, which recorded a 68.4% turnout.

The Sabah state election in September 2020 saw the number fall to 66.61% and the Melaka state election last November saw just 65.85%.

The turnout took an even bigger dive in Sarawak last December, with only 60.67% coming out to vote.In contrast, the last general election saw a turnout of 82.32%.

With the turnout dwindling, Barisan Nasional is aiming to replicate its success in the Melaka polls when it secured a two-thirds majority, winning 21 of the 28 seats.

For that, Barisan needs to capture at least 38 of the 56 seats at stake.

After two weeks of campaigning, all signs point to Umno leading in terms of Malay support, and caretaker chief minister Datuk Seri Hasni Mohammad is going for the kill and beating the war drum for a two-thirds majority.

All systems go: Election Commission staff members making final preparations for polling day at Dewan JKR Johor Bahru in Larkin. — THOMAS YONG/The StarAll systems go: Election Commission staff members making final preparations for polling day at Dewan JKR Johor Bahru in Larkin. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

Barisan’s internal studies have indicated that Umno alone could win up to 33 of the 37 that it is contesting.

A Barisan insider said there is a high expectation that MCA and MIC will deliver the remaining five seats for the two-thirds majority.

Azmi Hassan, a senior fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research NASR, expects turnout to be low, despite the 750,000 newly-registered voters under the Undi18 and automatic registration laws.

He felt these new voters are not likely to cast their ballots due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“People outside Johor will find it difficult to come back and many are working in Singapore,” said Azmi.

Malaysia will only reopen its borders to international travellers from April 1.

Azmi said a low voter turnout will benefit Barisan, as it has a larger support base compared to Pakatan Harapan or Perikatan Nasional.

“If you look at the number of votes Barisan got in Melaka, it is about equal to what it got at the 14th general election in 2018.

“Perikatan and Pakatan also have their core supporters but in this matter, I believe Barisan is ahead,” added Azmi.

Although Azmi felt new voters will stay away, a survey among 1,068 registered voters by public opinion research centre Endeavour-MGC indicated an unknown factor among them.

Its principal political analyst Dr Oh Ei Sun said the survey results found that 94% of its respondents said they would vote, and 74% stated that their family and friends would return to Johor to vote.

“The addition of a large percentage of 18- to 21-year-olds, as well as automatically registered voters, would put voter turnout to a test, as these new voters’ willingness to vote has yet to be conclusively determined,” added Oh.

Similar trends were also recorded in a survey involving 3,200 respondents by Institut Darul Ehsan, a think tank linked with the Selangor state government.

In its survey, 30.4% of the respondents stated that their family members outside Johor would return to cast their ballots, while 49.4% said that they would not vote.

Only 42% of respondents stated that Covid-19 would not stop them from voting.

Both sides of the political divide are anxiously watching the voter turnout.

Depending on which side you talk to, the strategists are either fervently hoping for highs or lows.

PKR’s Bukit Batu candidate Arthur Chiong Sen Sern thinks the voter turnout would be “as usual”, as people he had met had expressed disappointment over the defection of leaders in the past.

“I believe they will come to cast their vote,” added Chiong.

Both sides have poured all they had into the campaigning.

They came into the final straight last night and today, we will know who breasts the tape.

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