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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Top dog to underdog in Johor comeuppance for Bersatu, say Harapan reps


Two months after seizing power through a political coup, cracks have appeared in the nascent Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition with Bersatu and Umno locking horns in Johor.
As far as Pakatan Harapan assemblypersons like Jimmy Puah (above) are concerned, Bersatu is getting what it deserves for turning its back on former allies and the people's mandate in the last general election.
Johor Umno, much to the chagrin of Bersatu leaders, is allegedly dominating the political resources in the state government. 
Johor Bersatu secretary Solihan Badri, commenting on the appointment of "coordinators" for opposition constituencies, noted how Bersatu coordinators were assigned to the seats of Maharani, Mahkota, Johor Jaya, Kota Iskandar, Pekan Nanas, Jementah and Bukit Batu. 
However, most of these seats are mixed constituencies where the odds are not favourable to a Malay-based party like Bersatu.
Observers opined that the difficult constituencies placed under Bersatu's watch demonstrated that the party founded by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his successor Muhyiddin Yassin, who are now on opposite sides of the political divide, does not have clout in PN.
Weighing into the internal friction, Puah claimed that Bersatu has no say in this matter since Umno, by virtue of being the strongest party in Johor PN, will prioritise its winnable seats.
"Umno used to be number one. They would not want to be the second. So I think Johor Umno has decided which seat they are comfortable with and left all the 'tough assignments' to Bersatu.
"What is there to be unhappy about? This is their own choice.
“They could have remained in government under Harapan similar to Kedah and defend the rakyat's mandate. But they chose Umno and lost their political capital and MB post,” he told Malaysiakini.
As for the constituencies assigned to Bersatu, Puah believes that Bersatu would need to depend on BN for electoral support.
"Most of their seats such as Kempas, Bukit Permai, Larkin would not have been won if not for Harapan's collective strength. I think deep down they know this.
"For example in Bukit Batu, 58 percent of the voters are Chinese. Is Bersatu confident in contesting this seat without the backing of Harapan?” he asked.
From top dog in Harapan to underdog in PN
Kota Iskandar assemblyperson Dzulkefly Ahmad said he believes it is Umno and not Bersatu which calls the shots in Johor.
He pointed out that Bersatu only gained 11 seats (including three former Umno assemblypersons) in Johor compared to BN's 16 - Umno 14 and MIC 2.
Moreover, he noted that since Bersatu has been assigned to only seven of the 27 Harapan seats in the state, it implied that the party might be only contesting 18 seats in the next polls.
Dzulkefly (photo) argued that it would be an uphill task for Bersatu, Umno or PAS to win any of DAP's 14 seats, therefore reducing their winnable target to the 13 seats held by PKR and Amanah.
“From these 13 seats, Bersatu only gets three - Maharani, Mahkota and Kota Iskandar. The rest are supposedly allocated to Umno and PAS.
“So Umno will still be the dominant party in Johor PN as Bersatu can only win a maximum of 14 seats. This is the real arrangement of Umno,” he told Malaysiakini.
Meanwhile, DAP Jementah assemblyperson Tan Chen Choon said he does not know the reason for Bersatu adopting his seat.
“Perhaps, Bersatu thinks it has a higher chance of winning in Jementah,” the former state exco quipped.
However, he did not discount the possibility of Umno deliberately passing difficult seats to its new ally.
“It could be the case. Coupled with the fact that they have lost their MB position, Bersatu is an underdog now,” he added.
Furthermore, Tan said since there is an overlap in terms of seats between the three Malay-based parties of Bersatu, Umno and PAS, seat negotiations in PN would be an arduous task.
On the same note, he pointed out that Jementah was MCA's traditional seat in the past.
“Bersatu has a coordinator here. Does this mean MCA has given up the seat to Bersatu?” he asked.
Amamah rep tells Bersatu to return to Harapan
Sharing her thoughts on the political quagmire in PN, Amanah's Maharani assemblyperson Norhayati Bachok (photo) urged Bersatu to return to Harapan to form a strong coalition since PN is fragile.
“This is the best moment for Bersatu and Harapan to reunite and rebuild the relationship,” she added.
Earlier today, DAP's Paloh assemblyperson Sheikh Umar Bagharib Ali and Amanah's Pulai Sebatang assemblyperson Taquiddin Cheman said if Johor Bersatu had remained neutral on the formation of PN, the party would have stronger bargaining power.
"If they followed (Kedah MB) Mukhriz Mahathir's example in Kedah, this would have given Bersatu significant bargaining power in PN, which was previously described as a ‘fragile’ political cooperation and does not have a clear path forward," the pair said in a joint statement.
Johor Bersatu has also complained that the Umno-led state government is not making political appointments such as in GLCs in an equitable manner.
Malaysiakini quoted a high-ranking Johor Umno source claiming that if Bersatu does not back down, snap polls could be held in the state.  - Mkini

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