Will Simpang Jeram turn Johor into the PN’s new frontline state?

THE Johor by-election is witnessing intense competition in Simpang Jeram, a crucial battleground. Securing victory here would spotlight Perikatan Nasional (PN) within the state assembly, potentially elevating Johor as a significant frontier state for the coalition led by Johor native also former premier Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.Johor was seen as the frontier state for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the 14th General Election (GE14) and it delivered results that shocked UMNO, contributing to PH’s victory against former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak.Now, PN election director Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor said the Sept 9 election was a “gateway” for “the wave that broke out in the recent six state elections to reach Johor and even go all the way to Singapore”.“It starts here (at the by-elections) before we take over Johor in another two and a half years,” he said, referring to the next state election.Malays are the largest ethnic community (44%) in both Pulai and Simpang Jeram. They showed massive support for the PN in GE15 last year and also in the recent state polls in the six states across Malaysia. Chinese voter population is over 43%.It is a Bersatu candidate who is fielded in the state seat. Muhyiddin did not refrain from stating again that the Aug 12 state polls were a “message in the form of a referendum by the people to reject the current federal administration for its failures”.“We also need to bring the same message to the grassroots here, especially in Pulai and Simpang Jeram. So, give PN a chance to take over and run the government effectively,” added Muhyiddin.

The weight of the battle is now on Amanah, allies of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as they seek to defend the two seats held before by the late Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub who was also Amanah’s deputy president on behalf of PH.They made it clear that they counted a lot on Barisan Nasional’s (BN) support in the two by-elections. The party’s deputy Bakri Amanah division chief Nazri Abdul Rahman will contest the Simpang Jeram seat.Moreover, they face an uphill challenge according to some analysts who say with many Chinese voters—who are largely PH supporters—residing and working in Singapore, there is the risk of a low turnout, while Pulai UMNO chief Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed expects protest votes from Malays.PH will now largely depend on the return of non-Malay voters to retain the seats.

“Non-Malay voters… need to turn up to balance the dissatisfaction among Malay voters,” Free Malaysia Today quoted the UMNO supreme council member was quoted as saying.

Bakri PN co-chairman Mahadzir Abu Said on the other hand said that PN will work closely to put up a strong fight for the election.PN already has a strategy in mind for the campaign that will begin after nominations on Saturday (Aug 26).“PN is expected to focus on several areas, especially matters related to the welfare and infrastructure for the Simpang Jeram community, throughout the campaign,” The Borneo Post quoted Mahadzir as saying.In the last Johor state election, PH successfully defended the state seat when the late Salahuddin won with a majority of 2,389 votes over the PN then-candidate Zarul Salleh. Barisan Nasional Datuk Lokman Md Don came in third.The Election Commission has fixed nomination day for both the Pulai and Simpang Jeram by-elections polling for Sept 9, with early voting on Sept 5. – Aug 27, 2023


Main photo credit: Kosmo!

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