KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 6 — Johor Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders have held “serious discussions” with Salahuddin Ayub for the PAS vice-president to stand in his home state to address the lack of a strong Malay leader as a possible mentri besar candidate.
The opposition in Johor expects to make huge gains in the next general election on the back of increased Chinese support but the lack of a viable potential MB has already resulted in attacks from Umno that a PR administration would be a “Chinese government.”
Salahuddin said he is ‘ready to migrate’ if asked by the party. — File pic
The Malaysian Insiderunderstands that the Pontian-born Salahuddin has held several closed-door meetings with top Johor PR leaders.
A source said the meetings involved “serious discussions” and there is a high possibility that the Kuban Kerian MP will contest in Johor.
“Salahuddin is weighing the matter seriously. We in Johor Pakatan are ready to receive him.
“The seats for him to contest have already been identified. He may contest in both federal and state seats but our priority is for him to stand as an assemblyman,” he said.
It is understood that Sembrong, a federal seat near Kluang with about 40 per cent Chinese voters, has been touted as a potential landing point for Salahuddin.
Rumours have circulated that incumbent Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein may move to Kota Tinggi, a safer seat that will likely be vacated by Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, who was dropped from the Cabinet by Datuk Seri Najib Razak when the prime minister took power in 2009.
Johor DAP chief Dr Boo Cheng Hau also confirmed that he has invited the former PAS Youth chief to return to the state.
“I have invited Salahuddin to contest here because we need a national-level leader here,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
When contacted, Salahuddin refused to confirm if he will contest in Johor but said he is “ready to migrate” if asked by the party.
“I have been with the party for 30 years and contested in Johor but lost. There is no obstacle for me as I am a Johorean and built my career there,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
He said that he has been asked by party members to return to Johor over the past few years.
Salahuddin has been MP for Kubang Kerian in Kelantan for two terms and PAS conventionally allows leaders from other states to contest in its northern stronghold for two elections.
Ghani has going round the state to woo people especially in constituencies with at least 40 per cent Chinese voters.
The wave of anger that swept through the rest of the Malaysian peninsula in Election 2008 missed the Umno birthplace and bastion where PR won just one federal and six state seats out of 26 and 56 on offer respectively.
But Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman has been pounding the pavement since late October especially in constituencies with at least 40 per cent Chinese voters in anticipation of a swing towards PR.
“He’s been on the ground in all these seats the opposition thinks it can win,” a top official in Ghani’s administration told The Malaysian Insider.
Opposition leaders in the state estimate that they won 55 per cent of Chinese votes in the last election but a study by reformist think-tank Zentrum Future Studies said support from the community has surged to close to 90 per cent.
“We are seeing what can be called a silent Tionghua revolution,” he told The Malaysian Insider, saying that Chinese approval of PR in Johor rose to 68 per cent after the last election and climbed further to 79 per cent in 2010.
PKR held its national congress in Johor at the end of November, claiming it was ready to take over the state.
Analysts say that such a swing in the BN stronghold would practically mean enough gains nationwide for PR to add the 30 federal seats it needs to seize Putrajaya as well.
But the pact’s members have warned against trumpeting their chances in Johor as it would result in attacks from Umno of being a “Chinese government.”
PKR has refused to answer the question regarding its MB candidate but a local division chief told The Malaysian Insider “we have no one since Abdul Razak Ahmad,” referring to the late state chief.