Saturday, May 4, 2013

BN under pressure in Johor

With DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang personally commanding the battle in Johor, along with new generation leaders such as Liew Chin Tong and Teo Nie Ching, a political tsunami is in the making in BN's southern stronghold.

Joining the onslaught are Pakatan's other heavyweight leaders PAS vice president Salahuddin Ayub and PKR vice president Chua Jui Meng.

The fortress of BN is now Pakatan's frontline state. With the anti-establishment sentiment stronger now than ever, BN's majority votes will be remarkably slashed and some of the "black areas" could easily change hands after tomorrow.

While BN is poised to retain the state, its prowess is definitely weakened this time round.

The number of BN's state assembly seats will be reduced, but no one can tell for sure by how many.

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In 2008, Pakatan captured one parliamentary and six state seats in Johor, namely Bakri parliamentary seat, Skudai, Senai, Mengkibol, Bentayan, Maharani and Sungai Abong state seats.

The state BN chief, MB Abdul Ghani Othman has been tasked with the mission to check the advances of the DAP strongman in Gelang Patah.

After the announcement of Kit Siang's decision to take Gelang Patah, so far more than a hundred ceramahs of all sizes have been organised across the state, some seeing the endorsement of Pakatan's three supremos Lim Guan Eng, Anwar Ibrahim and Nik Aziz. The massive turnout at these ceramahs is unprecedented and unanticipated.

As for Barisan, the ruling coalition has adopted a less aggressive approach, making visitations and keeping in touch with the voters in a personal way while drastically cutting down the number of pre-election ceramahs.

Emotions run high at many of DAP's ceramahs, but such a phenomenon is limited to Chinese-majority areas. On the contrary, the response to Pakatan's shows are lukewarm in Malay-dominant areas or Felda settlements.

Najib has said BN will not be able to stage a clean sweep in Johor this time, and has tried to at least keep up to the mark of its performance in 2008.

The powerful anti-establishment sentiment in Johor has overwhelmed the state MCA. Unless an eleventh hour miracle has come to its rescue, MCA is expected to surrender all the six state constituencies it contests in northern Johor, namely Jementah, Bekok, Tangkak, Bentayan, Yong Peng and Penggaram.

As for the three parliamentary seats contested by MCA, only Ayer Hitam is safe; Labis and Bakri are only 50 to 50.

There are 15.26% Indian voters in Labis, which has always been a fortress of BN. This time, DAP is fielding an Indian candidate Ramakrishnan A/L Suppiah to clash with Chua Tee Yong. With about 40% each of Chinese and Malay votes there, the Indians are bound to be the eventual kingmakers in this constituency.

In addition, MCA may also lose Bekok state seat under Labis, where DAP's candidate Lim Eng Guan enjoys an edge given the disputes arising from MCA's candidate line-up.

Pakatan is also eyeing some breakthrough in Sekijang and the two state seats under it. The replacement of Umno divisional chief Baharum Mohamed could pose a serious challenge for Umno to defend the parliamentary seat.

Infighting within Umno may also have an impact on the Pemanis state seat under Sekijang. Gerakan Rakyat's Lau Chin Hoon will have a tough time defending this seat. Besides, due to the poor rapport with other Gerakan divisional leaders, hardly any grassrrots leaders have shown their support in his campaign. His opponent, PAS' Normala binti Sudirman may have a surprise edge.

With Chinese overwhelmingly falling for Pakatan, the opposition pact is also working very hard to solicit votes from the Malay and Indian swing voters. BN's prospects are precarious in a number of constituencies, including Labis, Segamat, Kluang, Gelang Patah and Kulai parliamentary seats as well as Jementah, Bekok, Tangkak, Yong Peng, Penggaram, Bukit Batu, Stulang, Pekan Nenas and Pengkalan Rinting state seats.

Coupled with the Bakri parliamentary seat as well as Skudai, Senai, Mengkibol, Bentayan, Maharani and Subang Abong state seats which Pakatan captured in 2008 and which BN now vows to wrest back, intense fights are expected in a total of six parliamentary and 15 state seats in Johor.

Most of these hotly contested seats are in the north, west coast, central and south, while the east coast of Johor is firmly BN's vote bank.

Tough defence

The focus of national attention will invariably be Gelang Patah where a "clash of the Titans" is being staged.

It is generally believed that the majority will be within 5% whoever takes Gelang Patah eventually.

A stone's throw from Gelang Patah, Kulai is also feeling the heat. The Senai state seat currently held by DAP is not expected to be recaptured by BN this time, while Bukit Batu with 61.63% Chinese voters, may fall into the hands of Pakatan.

In the meantime, BN is not enjoying an upper hand at all in Kulai, with DAP's Teo Nie Ching having a comfortable lead over MCA's "Mr Nice Guy" Tay Chin Hein.

The anti-BN sentiment is particularly ferocious in Kluang, where DAP's rallies have drawn tens of thousands of participants each.

Defending the seat, MCA's Hou Kok Chung has adopted a more moderate approach that sets him apart from the aggressive campaign of his former student Liew Chin Tong from DAP. While things turn in favour of Liew at this moment, the services offered by Hou over the years as well as the support of Malay voters must not be overlooked as well.

There are four parliamentary and ten state seats in the districts of Muar and Ledang. Bakri, which fell into the hands of DAP in 2008, is seen as a place where MCA has 50% chance of recapturing, while Bentaya remains very much DAP's unless MCA can twist things around last minute.

It is 50 to 50 for Umno and PAS in Sungai Abong, and Umno can count on returning Malay votes to retake the seat.

The battles are expected to be very closely fought in the Gambir and Tangkak state constituencies under Ledang. In 2008, MCA's candidate barely brushed past his opponent with a razor thin 295 majority votes. With the anti-BN gust whacking mercilessly, MCA can lose this seat any time.

With PAS state chairman Mahfodz Mohamed in the running, and two Umno men running as independents, MIC's M. Asojan may have to fight against the odds to defend Gambir state seat.

The Pagoh parliamentary seat defended by deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will remain BN's stronghold, but not Muar and Ledang--also within the district of Muar--which have now become BN's "grey areas" thanks to the powerful anti-establishment sentiment.

Penggaram and Yong Peng, the two Chinese-majority state seats in the district of Batu Pahat, is seeing a tilt towards DAP.

Datuk Chua Jui Meng, PKR's man in Segamat, is fast catching up from a poor start, posing a serious threat to the incumbent Subramaniam.

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