KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — It would not be irresponsible to call for snap polls in Johor as the government can continue to give out aid to the public even during elections, Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said today.

Amid speculation that the Johor state administration led by Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad — who is from Umno — may call for elections before the end of a five-year term next year, Khaled insisted that holding state elections soon would be necessary to avoid the government from having to rely on the Opposition’s support to continue ruling.

Responding to Opposition party Parti Amanah Negara deputy president Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub’s threat to withdraw support for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob if any snap polls in states like Johor or Perak or nationally were held, Khaled today said that such threats were why snap polls should be held.

“Because of such threats, state elections and general elections should be held immediately. No government can be threatened like this at all times and in all situations,” Khaled wrote in a Facebook post today.

Khaled, who is also a former Johor mentri besar, sought to argue that it would not be irresponsible to hold a Johor state election at this point in time.

“Holding a Johor state election is not an irresponsible action. This is actually being responsible. We must return the mandate to the public when the government is in a position that is too fragile and not stable. 

“Not continue to insist that we have power when we are forced to ask for the Opposition’s support,” he said, likely alluding to the current Johor state administration’s thin majority of just one seat.

In the 56-seat Johor state assembly, Umno’s Hasni as Johor mentri besar leads the state government with 28 seats (Barisan Nasional holds 16 seats while Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia has 11 seats and PAS one), while Pakatan Harapan holds 27 seats.

One seat in the assembly is currently vacant, following the December 21, 2021 death of Bersatu’s Kempas assemblyman Datuk Osman Sapian.

Khaled insisted that Johor’s state affairs would be disrupted if the state government topples, instead of if there are snap polls.

“The perception that the responsibility and focus towards the public’s welfare would be neglected just because there is a state election is also wrong.

“Even if a state election is held, the government machinery and all aid will continue to operate and be distributed as usual. None will end or be stopped.

“But what is a problem now is when the government is weak and not stable. Efforts to assist the public and govern the state would be affected if we continue to be threatened with a fall as what is happening now,” he added.

He argued that more than 90 countries had successfully held elections during the pandemic, and argued that Melaka and Sarawak had also successfully held state elections during the pandemic.

“What has resulted is stability and the formation of strong and stable governments and no serious spread of disease,” he said.

Directly addressing Salahuddin, Khaled went on to say: “YB’s threat is actually not in the public’s interest. But because PAN (Amanah) is afraid to face elections and to accept defeat. PH’s (Pakatan Harapan) defeat in the Melaka and Sarawak state elections very much haunt PH,” he said.

However Khaled also said that whether a Johor state election is needed would be up to the discretion of the Johor state government and the Johor palace, adding that any threats from PH would not be a factor to determine the holding of state elections.

“And if PH withdraws its support from the prime minister, BN (Barisan Nasional) is ready to face the general elections and form a new government without needing PH’s support, God willing,” he concluded.

In his Facebook post, Khaled had included a headline from local daily The Star, which had reported Salahuddin as having said that it was not suitable to hold state elections amid unresolved flood issues and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Salahuddin was also reported saying that he may withdraw his support for the memorandum of understanding that PH and the federal government have for bipartisan cooperation, if the ruling coalition recklessly dissolves state assemblies such as in Johor and Perak to pave the way for state elections.

He also reportedly questioned what would be the purpose of snap polls in Johor, when the Johor Opposition PH had been very cooperative and supportive of the state government for the sake of the public, despite the state government only having a majority by one seat.