JOHOR BARU, March 5 — Johor Barisan Nasional (BN), especially its largest component Umno, has always been confident that support for the coalition in the state would slowly return despite losing its grip on the southern state since the historic 14th general election (GE14).
According to well-placed state Barisan Nasional (BN) sources, the BN coalition, especially Umno, were enjoying good support in most parts of Peninsula Malaysia after many people had lost confidence in Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) administration.
“The sentiments were positive for BN, more so in Johor, where many were disgruntled at the administration of the state under PH.
“After about a year since GE14, most Umno divisions in the state were seen to be motivated in moving their grassroots supporters despite the odds that were earlier placed upon the party with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) probe last year that saw the seizure of the party’s assets,” said a source, who is privy to state Umno affairs, to Malay Mail recently.
He said that last year’s Umno-PAS alliance and its Muafakat Nasional charter had actually set the path and it was also tested in the following Tanjung Piai by-elections that saw PH being hammered after BN took more than a 15,000 majority.
In last November’s Tanjung Piai by-election, the parliamentary seat was returned to BN’s fold, with the former ruling coalition securing up to 75 per cent of votes, including from several Chinese-majority voting streams.
BN’s candidate Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng from MCA received 25,466 votes to bag a majority of 15,086 over PH’s Karmaine Sardini from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, who received 10,380 votes.
The same source, who was instrumental in the Tanjung Piai by-election campaign, said the results were a big moral boost for BN.
“Based on the stunning win, especially with the swing in Chinese votes, we believe that the voters were disenchanted with PH’s unfulfilled pledges, poor communications and leadership as well as generally unhappy about the state of the economy.
“The Chinese vote switched despite expectations that BN’s vicarious partnership with PAS and scandals involving Datuk Seri Najib Razak would alienate non-Malay voters,” said the source, adding that Tanjung Piai’s victory was a clear sign for PH that the next general election may see the then ruling coalition lose federal power.
The Umno source also corroborated a Malaysiakini report on Monday that said PH’s loss at Tanjung Piai had set off alarm bells, especially in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), that saw the party move away from PH and align itself to the Umno, PAS and BN to secure federal power last weekend.
However, another source said that this was not something new as PH had known that its support was dwindling since it took federal power, even among its Chinese voters.
“I believe that PH, especially Bersatu, had known about the matter even before the Tanjung Piai by-election.
“For PH, it may be a matter of pride as who in their right mind will admit that they are losing popularity after winning the May 2018 polls.
“But the Tanjung Piai by-election was a clear indicator that something urgent must be done and at the same time it was also what the future held for Bersatu in PH if it soldiered on with the coalition,” said the source on condition of anonymity due to his position in Umno.
The same source also pointed out that the PH alliance between Bersatu and DAP, PKR and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) was not united in their goals and lacked direction.
He claimed that DAP itself failed to understand the Malays, thus making the country repressive in some ways.
“Perhaps Bersatu members, who were once also from Umno, saw that the Umno-PAS Muafakat Nasional charter was a unifying force for the Malays and Muslims in the recent Tanjung Piai by-election.
“At the same time, we also supported MCA who contested the parliamentary seat that proves that the Muafakat Nasional cooperation did not in any way compromise the concept of power-sharing nor was it racially biased,” said the source, adding that the victory in Tanjung Piai may have triggered a possibility of disagreement from Bersatu members towards DAP.
Last week, a total of 28 state assemblymen from BN, PAS and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia secured a simple majority in Johor to take over the state government from Pakatan Harapan, following a similar development in Putrajaya.
Subsequently, Umno’s Datuk Hasni Mohammad took his oath of office as Johor’s 18th mentri besar amid a political impasse enveloping the rest of the country.