Report: Unity government to be established in Johor?

THE Johor State Legislative Assembly will be in the spotlight this Thursday (Sept 14), following the conclusion of the by-election for the Pulai parliamentary seat and Simpang Jeram state seat last Saturday (Sept 9).

This is after the Election Commission’s (EC) official announcement that both Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidates Suhaizan Kaiat and Nazri Abdul Rahman (both from Amanah) had emerged victorious in the Pulai and Simpang Jeram by-elections.

However, the spotlight would certainly be on Nazri at the state assembly as he had managed to defend the Pulai seat which was won by the late Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub during the 14th General Election (GE14) back in 2018.

At last year’s Johorstate election, Barisan Nasional (BN) managed to wrestle back the southern state from PH, winning two-thirds (40 out of the 56 state seats) it had contested.

PH had managed to win 12 seats, namely 10 won by DAP and one each from PKR and Amanah, while Perikatan Nasional (PN) had managed to secure three seats with Bersatu winning two seats and PAS winning one.

While it does not affect BN’s dominance in the state, questions about BN’s cooperation with PH have arisen, as indicated by the two recent by-elections.

Suffice to day, the PH-BN coalition is not merely a by-election machinery. Recall that key leaders such as Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi had taken to the streets in order to convince UMNO and BN supporters to vote for the unity government candidate.

However, it is also interesting to point out that the PH-BN feud is a long-standing one. While Johor is well-recognised as an UMNO stronghold that had dominated the state seats until the 13th General Election (GE13), note also that BN was defeated by PH for the first time in GE14, with PH winning 36 state seats to BN’s 19 and PAS’ one.

The political scenario in Johor changed again in February 2020 when Bersatu left PH to establish PN alongside Muafakat Nasional (MN) under the administration of then menteri besar Datuk Seri Hasni Mohammad.

However, the success in the recent by-election for the Pulai parliamentary seat and Simpang Jeram state seat has indicated Johoreans’ approval of the two former political foes’ collaboration, which is quite encouraging, so to speak.

Despite not being in the same bloc, the Johor state assembly has begun using the term “balancing force” (pihak pengimbang) which is friendlier than the term “opposition” by decree of the Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.

According to Sultan Ibrahim, the duty of the opposition is not simply to oppose all the government’s proposals, hence it is more suitable to use the term “balancing force” following their role as government check and balance.

Salahuddin, as Chairman of Johor PH at the time, was reported to have said in June that Johor PH would not be seeking a spot on the Johor executive council despite the PH-BN partnership at the Federal level.

Negotiations will be made, however, over the distribution of grassroots roles in the state to include PH members in order to ensure that PH assemblymen are given the opportunity to contribute to the state’s growth.

Johor now has ten state government executive councillors (exco) with varied responsibilities, including seven BN assemblymen, two MCA, and one MIC. Naturally, PH and BN should discuss and reach an agreement on the current stance of PH representatives on state executive council.

The inclusion of PH assemblymen in the ranks of the Johor executive council, on the other hand, must be left to the discretion of the state leadership.

The spirit of togetherness and collaboration between PH and BN in the state has already begun to be intertwined regarding local community issues, and it would not be unreasonable to expect benefits from the inclusion of PH assemblymen in the ranks of the state’s executive council.

PH assemblymen with exco experience are also present, such as Johor Jaya assemblyman Liow Chai Tung, who is a former Tourism, Women, Family, and Community Development exco.

Aside from that, Nazri, who is an engineer, may be voted to the state government’s exco in the future. – Sept 12, 2023


Main pic credit: NST

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