Last year, DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang listed Johor as one of the front-line states. Since then, Johor seems to have become a decisive battlefield between the ruling and alternative coalitions.
Heads of the BN and the Pakatan Rakyat, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim have recently paid frequent visits to Johor. Najib, in particular, has visited the state for three times in two months.
Looking into the election history, Johor had never been a major battlefield as in the past 12 general elections, it had never been the cup of tea for the opposition. Johor received only slight impacts from major political events, including the Reformasi movement and the 2008 general election.
Times have, after all, changed. After learning a lesson from the 2008 political tsunami, the BN no longer dares to take it lightly even if Pakatan Rakyat's declaration to seize Johor is only a rave.
Johor is a big state with 26 parliamentary seats and 56 state seats. In the 2008 general election, the Johor BN lost only one parliamentary seat and 6 state seats. It has contributed a lot in keeping the BN in power.
It seems like a strong fortress for the BN. Subtly, it is also a "life-saving state" for the MCA, the Gerakan and the MIC. Seven of the 15 parliamentary seats and 12 of the 35 state seats of the MCA are in Johor. As for the Gerakan, one of its two parliamentary seats and 2 of its four state seats are in Johor. Similar to the MIC, one of its three parliamentary seats and four of its seven state seats are in Johor.
The three BN component parties have been relying heavily on Johor. In other words, if anything happens to Johor in the next general election, it could affect the overall situation and hit the BN's regime. It might be one of the reasons explaining the Prime Minister's frequent visits to the state.
However, Johor Bahru member of Parliament Datuk Sharir Samad optimistically forecast that the situation in the 2008 general election would not repeat in the state and instead, the BN has a higher chance of winning compared to the previous election. It is because more Malays in Johor are supporting the BN while Chinese voters have not shown much change in their voting tendency.
Has Sharir been over optimistic? I don't want to jump to the conclusion. However, I would like to remind him that it is not true to say that there is not much change in the voting tendency of the Chinese. It is better for the BN to be cautious or it might caught in an unexpected dilemma!
Of course, not many people, including Pakatan Rakyat grassroots leaders, are confident that the Johor Pakatan Rakyat does really have the strength to take over the state.All in all, the people wish for a change and politics is capricious.
It is useless to talk so much and the only way to victory would be to convince voters to vote for you!- Sin Chew Daily
Johor: Pakatan tambah kerusi 'sukar tapi tak mustahil'...
Naib Presiden PAS Salahuddin Ayub mengakui usaha Pakatan Rakyat untuk menambah kerusi DUN dan Parlimen di Johor "tidak mudah tetapi tidak mustahil" berlaku pada pilihan raya umum akan datang.
Katanya, berdasarkan program turun padang gabungan itu bersama rakyat sejak kebelakangan ini, beliau merasai reaksi dan respon yang positif rakyat negeri itu yang mahukan perubahan kepada Pakatan Rakyat.
"Ini peluang terbaik yang semestinya perlu dilihat secara positif oleh Pakatan Rakyat. Mungkin (Datuk) Shahrir Samad rasa ianya di kubu kuat BN. Itu hak dia (untuk memberi pendapat), kalau dia rasa (rakyat) tidak berubah sejak kemerdekaan dulu.
"Saya percaya keadaan sudah berubah, Melayu, Cina dan India telah berubah. Kita telah mencapai kemerdekaan dan mereka mahukan kerajaan yang urustadbir yang baik dan adil kepada semua pihak.
"Semua pihak mahu mendapat keadilan yang saksama. Itulah reaksi rakyat Johor," katanya ketika dihubungi Malaysiakini semalam.
Salahuddin mengulas kenyataan ahli parlimen Johor Datuk Shahrir Samad yang dilapor berkata negeri itu tidak akan dilanda tsunami politik kerana pembangkang tidak mempunyai banyak isu untuk dibangkitkan termasuk perbelajaan pemimpin BN yang terkawal dan tidak boros.
Akhbar berbahasa Cina Sin Chew Daily melaporkan Shahrir sebagai menegaskan komponen BN Johor mempunyai kerjasama erat bahkan pengundi Melayu banyak telah menyokong BN serta undi kaum Cina tidak banyak berubah.
Ditanya sama ada beliau bersetuju dengan Shahrir, Salahuddin yang juga bekas ketua Pemuda PAS tidak menjawab secara langsung, sebaliknya hanya menjanjikan "satu perubahan akan berlaku" di negeri itu.
"Kita boleh menambah kerusi DUN dan Parlimen, saya berfikir kita boleh membuat penambahan kerusi di Johor. Walaupun tidak mudah, tetapi ia tidak mustahil berlaku," katanya yang juga ahli parlimen Kubang Kerian.
Katanya, pencapaian "cukup baik" kepada Pakatan sekiranya gabungan itu mampu memenangi separuh kerusi DUN dan Parlimen pada pilihan raya umum akan datang.
Johor mempunyai 26 kerusi parlimen dan 56 kerusi DUN.
Dalam temubual Malaysiakini pula, Salahudin berkata perubahan politik di Johor berlaku apabila kebangkitan kesedaran anak muda dari pelbagai bangsa mengambil berat tentang politik termasuk dokongan orang bukan Melayu yang pernah memberi kemenangan Pakatan di Selangor pada 2008.
"Jadi, kalau saya seorang ahli politik tidak ambil kesempatan dan bersama dengan perubahan, apa nilai saya sebagai seorang pejuang politik, pemimpin yang diberi kepercayaan untuk memimpin atau bersama memimpin perubahan.
"Jadi dengan sebab itu saya tetap yakin pada hari ini, Johor ialah gelanggang yang cukup subur di mana suatu perubahan besar akan berlaku," katanya dalam temubual itu semalam.
Mengulas mengenai tumpuan PAS di kawasan yang ditandingi, Salahuddin berkata PAS sedang berusaha menambahkan kekuatan sokongan pengundi Melayu-Islam termasuk di DUN Sungai Abong dan Maharani yang dimenangi mereka.
Bahkan, katanya, parti itu juga akan terus berusaha menambah kepercayaan dan sokongan khususnya kaum Cina yang sudah ada di 20 kawasan bagi mencipta kemenangan.
Katanya lagi, PAS juga bakal memperkenalkan calon terbaik dari pelbagai latar belakang, taraf pendidikan termasuk dari Dewan Himpunan Penyokong PAS (DHPP), sebagai strategi dalam pilihan raya umum kelak.
Selain dokumen Negara Berkebajikan dan Buku Jingga, PAS juga menggunakan isu tempatan seperti isu tanah, isu felda, isu pendidikan dan isu pembinaan loji penapisan minyak di Pengerang, Johor.
Salahuddin berkata manifesto Pakatan Rakyat Johor juga telah menetapkan dengan menghadkan jawatan menteri besar kepada dua penggal sahaja.- malaysiakini
Johor not an eternal Umno bastion, says Salahuddin...
PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub has shot down the claim by Umno's Johor Baru MP Shahrir Samad that a political upset for the ruling coalition in Johor is "impossible".
"Any political party or leader who assumes that the rakyat are like how they were before independence is wrong. Times have changed," the Kubang Kerian MP said in an interview with Malaysiakini.
Despite facing an stunning electoral setback in the 2008 general election, the ruling coalition nevertheless swept 25 of the 26 parliamentary seats in its southern peninsula stronghold, which is also the birthplace of Umno, on top of 50 out of the 56 state seats.
Shahrir had in an interview with Sin Chew Daily on Monday said the BN is likely to improve its already strong position in Johor in the coming general election.
Unlike BN leaders in the other states, Shahrir had said the coalition's Johor representatives were more humble and have more modest lifestyles.
While conceding that Pakatan Rakyat will face an uphill task in Johor, Salahuddin insisted that it would still be able to increase its tally of both state and parliamentary seats.
"It will be good enough if we can take half of the parliamentary seats in the next general election," said Salahuddin, who is expected to relinquish his seat in his home state Kelantan seat to contest in Johor in the coming general election, which is widely expected to be held in June.
"The youth are becoming more politically aware and support from the non-Malays in Johor is increasing.
"The change that took place in Selangor in 2008 can happen in Johor too," he said, adding that the next election would be Pakatan's best chance yet to make inroads in Johor.
PAS will work to improve its existing Malay Muslim support base, Salahuddin said, and was eyeing some 20 state seats in Johor, which it believes it has a good chance of winning.
Two-term limit for MB's post
He said the party has, in recent years, shed its image of a northern provincial party and this will prove to be its strength in Johor.
"Previously, PAS was isolated... It was framed as an extremist party. But that was once upon a time.
"PAS is no longer just a party of religious scholars. We also have professionals, including doctors, engineers and teachers, and they will be part of our line-up for the next general election," Salahuddin said.
The party's effort to project a moderate image, he said, was the formation of the PAS Supporters' Wing comprising non-Muslims, some of whom would stand as election candidates in Johor.
Among the local issues that might swing the pendulum of power in Johor, he said, were land matters concerning Felda and the RM6 billion Petronas refinery in Pengerang, which would displace local residents and destroy the livelihood of fishermen there.
Aside from focusing on these issues, Salahuddin said, Pakatan Johor would soon unveil its manifesto for the state.
"I will make an announcement for Pakatan in Johor. If we take over the state, the post of menteri besar will have a two-term limit," said the man who will spearhead the opposition campaign in Umno's traditional bastion.- malaysiakini