JOHOR BARU, Feb 15 — A protest at the Pelican Hotel in Batu Pahat last night marred PKR's announcement of its Semerah hopeful for the upcoming Johor state election.

A group of roughly 20 people claiming to be PKR members from its Parit Sulong division noisily objected when party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced Mohd Khuzzan Abu Bakar will defend Semerah during the unveiling of the candidates for the state's northern region.

Contacted by Malay Mail today, Mohd Khuzzan Abu Bakar said the incident happened about 9.30pm and described the protesters as just provocateurs.

“Yes I was aware that there was a group of youths outside the hotel who shouted in protest when party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced my name for the Semerah seat during the Johor PKR northern zone state election candidates’ announcement.

“However, the members escorting the party leaders managed to control the situation and no one was hurt in the incident that was over after more than 15 minutes,” he told Malay Mail.

Mohd Khuzzan said he was not perturbed, adding that the protest against him was nothing new as he faced a similar situation when he was first named the Semerah candidate in Election 2018.

The 54-year-old former Johor state executive councillor said his immediate plan now is to strengthen the party’s election machinery in preparations for the state polls.

He dismissed last night's disturbance as jeopardising his chances in the March 12 vote.

“I will leave it to my voters to decide,” he said.

Apart from Mohd Khuzzan, PKR announced that Bukit Naning incumbent Ysahrudin Kusni will defend his seat in the election.

The remaining five other PKR candidates that were later announced consisted of new faces.

Yoong Thau will contest the Pemanis state seat, Naim Jusri (Gambir), Azmi Masrani (Sri Medan), Abdullah Sahid (Sungai Balang) and C. Subramani (Buluh Kasap).

The Semerah state seat is considered a hot seat in the upcoming Johor state election as Mohd Khuzzan won with a thin majority of only 98 votes in Election 2018 against Barisan Nasional’s Mohd Ismail Roslan.

PKR is expected to contest in all 20 state seats in the Johor state election after their talks over three seats with Muda was deadlocked.

The Opposition PH coalition plans to contest all 56 seats in the upcoming Johor state election.

The Election Commission has set March 12 as polling day with early voting on March 8. Nomination day is set for February 26.