Johor’s state assembly election set for March 12

A photo from Nov 16, 2019, showing a voter at the polling booth in Johor. Nearly 2.6 million voters are eligible to cast their ballot in the upcoming election. PHOTO: ST FILE

KUALA LUMPUR -  Voters in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor will go to the polls on March 12, the Election Commission (EC) announced on Wednesday (Feb 9).

It said Nomination Day for candidates in the state assembly election is Feb 26, which means the campaign period will be two weeks.

Nearly 2.6 million voters are eligible to cast their ballot, according to data released by the commission.

“The nomination date for the 15th Johor state election has been set for Feb 26 while the date for early voting is set for March 8,” EC chairman Abdul Ghani Salleh told reporters. “We are targeting a 70 per cent turnout for the election.”

The state election was called after the Johor legislative assembly was dissolved on Jan 22.

It was previously helmed by the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and the Perikatan Nasional (PN) pact led by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

After the death of Kempas assemblyman Osman Sapian last December, this administration held 28 seats in the 56-seat assembly, just one seat more than opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH). 

Despite being partners in both the previous state government and the current federal government, BN and PN will be going head to head with each other, and against PH in the Johor polls.

Umno has been keen to trigger another ballot in its birthplace after an impressive performance by BN in the Melaka polls last November, when it romped home with a three-quarter majority in the state legislature. Another big win for BN would underline its dominance over Bersatu and embarrass the party's president and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin in his home state. 

A solid performance in Johor would also fuel momentum for an early general election, which Umno believes will restore its dominance in politics, after its historic loss in the 2018 General Election.

Umno and BN have also been buoyed by the outcome in the Sarawak state election last December. Gabungan Parti Sarawak - which is part of the current federal government - won 76 out of 82 seats at stake.

Meanwhile, the PN bloc has been hit by defections ahead of the Johor polls. Tebrau chief Mazlan Bujang and six other members from the division have decided to back BN. 

As for PH, it is likely to face an uphill task in the Johor election after its successive poor performances in the Melaka and Sarawak polls. It won only five out of 28 seats in Melaka, and only two out of 82 seats in Sarawak.

The PH partners are at loggerheads again as Parti Keadilan Rakyat seeks to cement its pre-eminence. The parties will be campaigning under different flags.

The Johor polls mark the first time individuals aged 18 to 20 can vote in a Malaysian election, after historic legislation to lower the voting age finally came into effect last December.

There are 175,000 voters aged 18 to 20 in Johor, making up about 7 per cent of the state’s eligible voters.

Meanwhile, voters in Singapore, southern Thailand, Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia, who were previously not eligible to register as postal voters can now do so, said the EC. They can apply from Wednesday (Feb 9) until Feb 18 to cast their postal ballots in the state election.

Although no Covid-19 health protocols for the polls were announced on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said it had submitted its recommendations to the National Security Council and EC on Feb 7.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the Omicron variant is not as serious as the Delta variant, thus allowing the Johor election to proceed as planned. 

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