Johor Done, Who’s Next?

It has been five (5) or so weeks since the conclusion of the 15th Johor state elections. As the dust settled late into the night of March the 12th, it became evidently clear that the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional coalition had, as expected, won the day, winning 40 of the 56 seats on offer.


With 40 seats in the bag, not only was it abundantly clear that who will be forming the next state government but that the UMNO-led coalition will be governing with a two-thirds majority with the state opposition to be led by Pakatan Harapan (PH) who crossed the line winning 11 of the 16 remaining seats.

As the dust settled, it also became clear that this version of the state elections, which registered the highest number of candidates standing for election (239 as against 158 who stood for elections in 2018), had several very interesting outcomes.

Barisan Nasional

For one, Pejuang, the splinter party formed by that elder statesman, formerly of UMNO and BN, Tun Dr Mahathir, following his exit from the other splinter party that he also helped formed ie Bersatu, discovered that all 42 of its candidates lost. What made it worse, their deposits as well. Not exactly a good sign, as concluded by many.

Some have even further concluded that this is indicative of the influence the Grand Ole Man of Malaysian politics has nowadays on Malaysian politics. This despite posting many an ‘open letter cum video’ to the Johor electorate, to which is evident that his candidates did not benefitted from.

Tun Dr Mahathir has already voiced his intention not to defend his parliamentary seat of Langkawi in the next general elections. The statement was well accepted, bearing in mind the Tun’s ever advancing age and his recent health scares. But Tun Mahathir, if anything, has proven to be unpredictable and so, as the newspapermen used to say, watch this space.

After all that the Tun has done when he was the 4th Prime Minister (PM4) and despite whatever misadventures or mis-steps he may have had made when he was the 7th Prime Minister (PM7), nobody could blame him if he was to totally retire from the Malaysian political scene. Especially after Pejuang’s debacle of a state election.

Another interesting outcome of the Johor state elections was the loss of all 16 candidates who stood for election as Independents. This outcome mirrored the outcome of Melaka’s state elections and can be seen as to reinforce the belief that for one to have a fighting chance in getting elected, one needs to have at one’s disposal an election machinery.

As anybody who has stood for elections can tell you, for an election machinery to perform, never mind admirably, the candidate would require funds. Not unlimited but still, enough to ensure the machinery keeps chugging along. If you were to campaign the traditional way that is. Until and unless a candidate can introduce a campaign that would totally revolutionize the way election campaigns are run, that does not require the candidate to ‘press the flesh’ and can yet still get elected. But until that day comes, we can safely add another 16 deposits to that growing list of lost deposits.


Since the conclusion of the Sabah state elections, three state elections have since been called. With the exception of Sarawak, the other state elections were that of Melaka’s and Johor’s. With that, the face-off between Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Barisan Nasional (BN), which began during the Sabah’s state elections continues.

Taking the masks off both PN and BN, it is, for all sense and purposes, a direct contest between two Malay-based parties : Bersatu, the party founded by Tun Dr Mahathir and later helmed by the man who replaced him as Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, and UMNO, for the hearts and minds of the Malays who make up the majority of the Malaysian electorate.

Forced to work together for the sake of political stability during the height of Covid-19 pandemic, the contest between the two Malay-based political parties can be described to be many faceted : the personalities involved with many of whom from Bersatu being at one point or another, owed their rise in Malaysian politics as well as their political allegiance to UMNO, the switching of political allegiances of elected representatives especially in the aftermath of the 14th general and state elections (PRU14), the perceived selected persecution of many an UMNO stalwarts post PRU14, as well as the perceived blood-letting of many a Government-linked company (GLC) top executives appointed during the BN administration, and many other slights, perceived and otherwise.

It must be brought to mind that these are Malay-based political parties and therefore the angst that is the Malays’ are never far away, despite the sophistication that modernization and globalization has brought about. That said, the only thing that can be safely said with regards to the Bersatu-UMNO relationship is, nothing is what it seems. It is simple in many ways, yet so complicated in many as well.

It would be fair to say that what transpired during the last Sabah state elections with the premature and very surprising announcement as to who will be appointed the Chief Executive of the state will continue to serve as reminder to UMNO (please see Coveting The Hot Seat – A Game of Musical Chairs ). In line with the resolve of the party’s delegates during the party’s annual convention after the Sabah state elections, UMNO and their partners in BN have gone to the elections on their own.

The results in the Melaka and Johor state elections have vindicated the decision to go it alone, so much so that many an analyst and political observer have come to a common belief that Bersatu is, til the next 15th general elections (PRU15), on borrowed time.

It is not foreseeable that there will be any further state elections, despite speculations to the contrary. Instead, despite PRU15 not due to be held til the middle of 2023, speculations are rife with many expecting it to be soon rather than later. All things considered, that may just be the case.

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