KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — Barisan Nasional’s (BN) supermajority in the recently concluded Johor state election — winning 40 out of 56 seats — signifies the coalition’s return as a political powerhouse.

Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) Associate Professor Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani said the disunity within the Opposition also contributed to the Umno-led coalition’s win.

“More or less you can say that they are back to becoming a powerhouse. This expands on the inability of the Opposition and Perikatan Nasional (PN) to pull together as a formidable force to challenge BN. 

“Multi-cornered fights favoured BN. Besides, BN has strong political machinery and funds, so they won big with a two-third majority like in Melaka. Without doubt, Datuk Seri Hasni Mohammad, the mentri besar, is popular and the mandate is for him to lead,” he told Malay Mail.

Echoing Azizuddin, Senior Fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Azmi Hassan pointed out that the Chinese voters were back supporting BN.

He said that this can be seen as four seats — Yong Peng, Bekok, Paloh and Pekan Nanas — that were allegedly DAP strongholds fell to BN.

“From these four constituencies which DAP lost, it really shows that BN is back to where they were before GE14.

“So yes, BN has returned to being the powerhouse,” he said.

Universiti Malaysia associate professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi said that despite the low voter turnout, BN’s popularity prevailed among the Johoreans.

Time for PH to go back to the drawing board

Some analysts said the Opposition, especially Pakatan Harapan (PH), only had itself to blame for its decisive loss at the polls; PH only won 12 out of the 56 seats.

“I think this has more to do with PH, if they keep on harping on the political narrative of 1MDB, attacking Najib, and so on, I think it won't go anywhere,” said Senior Fellow with the National Professors Council Jeniri Amir. 

“Because this political narrative has been used for a few years before 2018. It has become stale. It doesn't resonate with voters anymore,” he stressed.

Azmi Hassan pointed out that not only were votes split between various parties in the Opposition, but PH itself was splintered.

During the polls, DAP and Amanah contested under the PH logo, while PKR opted to use its own logo on the ballot sheets. 

“I think the fault lies squarely with PH. They need to think hard about their ‘big tent’ concept that they had envisioned before this, so that there won't be any three-corner, four-corner fights,” he said.

Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, added that some voters who had previously backed PH had either “lost all hope or were at least confused” after the Sheraton Move in 2020 — which caused the fall of the PH government.

He said this was exacerbated by PH’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the federal government in September last year, making some voters feel like PH cannot be an effective Opposition.

“Thus the voters refused to come out to vote, handing the victory to Umno,” he said.

Meanwhile, when asked what the election results meant for Bersatu and Pejuang’s positioning as Opposition Malay-centric parties; both Jeniri and Kartini Aboo Talib @ Khalid said that Pejuang, and by extension its chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, had become irrelevant.

Pejuang lost all 42 seats it contested in, and did not manage to gather more than one-eighth or 12.5 per cent of the votes in any of those seats — causing it to lose all its deposits.

“But Bersatu won three seats in Johor, and showed competitive numbers in most seats. Even then the party may not survive in GE15 because it is not widely accepted by the people other than those in Johor,” said Kartini, who is the deputy director of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies.