KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 — Should Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin decide to not defend his Gambir seat at the upcoming Johor state elections, it could prove to be a blessing in disguise for both him and his party, political analysts said. 

By not contesting, Muhyiddin would be prolonging the lifeline of his party and his political career, said Universiti Malaysia associate professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi. 

“Muhyiddin is not standing because he likely knows that he won his seat in Gambir (during the 14th general election) due to the support of Chinese constituents.

“But now, many Chinese constituents are angry with him. This is the result of Bersatu overthrowing Pakatan Harapan (PH) in 2020, which has led to their rejection of Bersatu. 

“So, it is difficult for Bersatu to win Gambir,” Awang Azman told Malay Mail when contacted. 

On January 25, Muhyiddin had reportedly said he may not defend the Gambir seat in the upcoming Johor state election. 

The former prime minister reasoned that this would allow him to pay more attention to issues at the parliamentary and federal levels, as well as to party matters. 

“I may not contest but this is up to the (collective) leadership. I want to pave the way for many more personalities in Johor, especially for this seat, but it is up to them as to who gets to contest there. We will decide,” he was quoted as saying at the time. 

At the same time, Awang Azman said Muhyiddin knows he could face Umno in Gambir, which has far more supporters in the area, and this does not even include PH candidates. 

“If he contests and loses, it may result in Bersatu’s presence disappearing from the national political radar.

“Even his reputation as party president, former prime minister and former Johor mentri besar could also be severely affected.

“So, the best move is to not contest and this will benefit Bersatu in turn, saving face and his political reputation as party president,” said Awang Azaman.

Stating a similar view, Perdana Centre, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia senior lecturer Mazlan Ali said Muhyiddin’s decision not to contest was due to the realisation that Perikatan Nasional (PN) is an underdog coalition. 

“He also knows that there would likely be a three-cornered contest and there would be a low chance for an underdog coalition to win the state polls. 

“But his decision could change now that PAS has said it will work with PN. We will have to wait and see,” said Mazlan when contacted. 

He also noted that Muhyiddin’s victory in 2018 was largely dependent on non-Malay voters who supported PH. 

Mazlan added this could also be a strategy by Umno, whereby it is seeking to create a wave of rejection towards Muhyiddin. 

“It could be a strategy that Umno is employing to make it look as though there is a rejection of Muhyiddin in Gambir. 

“That is the situation I observe at the moment,” said Mazlan. 

In GE14, Muhyiddin won the Gambir seat with a 3,088-vote majority over Barisan Nasional’s Datuk M. Asojan and PAS’ Mahfodz Mohamed.

According to a source close to PH, support for Muhyiddin on the ground seems “shaky” as the loyalty of the majority still rests with former mentri besar Datuk Osman Sapian, despite his death in December. 

“It is a mixed reaction on the ground now. Bersatu’s supporters are still standing on Osman Sapian’s side. 

“We have also been contacted by Osman Sapian’s officers. 

“We will have to wait and see,” said the source. 

When asked if PH would try to defend the Gambir seat, the source said it would be an uphill battle for the coalition as its new electorate will include Undi18 voters. 

“If it were a straight fight between PH, PN or BN, PH would have a higher chance of retaining the seat because the Chinese constituents are still on PH’s side. 

“But with the Undi18 voters in the picture now, the playing field is levelled. 

“The Undi18 voters are a new batch of voters, in that no one can say that they have championed this category of voters,” said the source. 

The source added that this will be the first time that any election will see Undi18 voters casting their votes. 

The Johor state election was triggered two weeks ago after caretaker Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Hasni Mohammad from Umno sought the dissolution of the state assembly despite still holding a one-seat majority, following the death of Osman who was the Bersatu assemblyman for Kempas.

The Election Commission is scheduled to meet this Wednesday to decide the nomination and polling dates for Johor.