A photograph of a meeting between a former Johor exco man from Umno and Anwar Ibrahim is feeding speculation that the opposition leader is involved in talks related to a possible election in the state.
But Jais Sarday, a loyalist of Mohamed Khaled Nordin who served under the former menteri besar before the 2018 polls, denies having held any meeting with Anwar to discuss the dissolution of the current Umno state government in order to pave the way for polls.
When contacted by MalaysiaNow, Jais said he supported any move to seek a fresh mandate, adding that the present government cannot function properly due to its one-seat majority.
“I believe that in Johor, Umno and Barisan Nasional have long been prepared and have been waiting to obtain a bigger mandate.
“If a state election is held, we will be able to return the mandate to thepeople,” he said. “As occurred in Melaka and Sarawak, we believe the people will reject any party from Pakatan Harapan (PH).”
He however denied any talks with Anwar.
“This is an old picture, it has nothing to do with a state election or politics,” he said when shown the picture of him with Anwar that has been making the rounds.
He also denied a claim that the picture was taken during the Melaka polls, saying he had been busy campaigning for Umno in the Jasin constituency.
This follows a series of statements from senior Umno leaders including its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, stating the party’s readiness to contest any planned election in Johor on its own, similar to its position during the recent Melaka polls.
Khaled reiterated this stand, saying Umno’s election machinery in the state had always been prepared.
Jais, who is also the Kluang Umno chairman, had as far back as 2019 called for a statewide election in Johor, after Osman resigned as menteri besar.
Rumours of a repeat of the Melaka state election in Johor have been swirling since the death of former menteri besar and Kempas assemblyman Osman Sapian last month, which left the Umno-led coalition government in Johor with a one-seat majority.
The election in Melaka was held following the move by four assemblymen to revoke their support for the Perikatan Nasional-led state government.
The quartet had also met with Anwar, who later fielded two of them to represent PH. All of the PKR candidates who contested under the coalition, however, lost.
Many had criticised the timing of the Melaka polls just as the country was recovering from Covid-19 following the success of the mass vaccination drive, fearing a repeat of the spike in cases that occurred in the aftermath of the Sabah election in 2020.
Following the end of the emergency last year, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar warned politicians in the state against any attempt to disrupt the state government, and urged them to focus on helping the people.
“I will not entertain any political games by assemblymen and risk destabilising my state and government,” the vocal ruler said when opening the Johor state assembly on Aug 12 last year.
Additional reporting by Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli.