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Tough road for DAP towards ballot box in Johor

While the PH component party commanded the bulk of the Chinese vote at the general election four years ago, it will have to deal with voters' disappointment since then.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional flags line a road in Stulang ahead of the Johor state election this Saturday. Photo: Bernama
Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional flags line a road in Stulang ahead of the Johor state election this Saturday. Photo: Bernama

As political parties continue to jostle for support in the run-up to the Johor election on March 12, analysts say DAP may witness a drop in support similar to the outcome of the recent polls in Melaka and Sarawak where many Chinese voters reversed the endorsement given at the 14th general election (GE14) four years ago.

At the Melaka election on Nov 20 last year, Barisan Nasional (BN) component MCA pulled off a comeback in two seats – Machap Jaya and Kelebang – after facing rejection from voters at several previous general elections.

MCA also won the 2019 by-election in Tanjung Piai, wresting the seat from Pakatan Harapan (PH).

At GE14, meanwhile, MCA president Wee Ka Siong defeated Johor DAP chief Liew Chin Tong in the tussle for the Ayer Hitam parliamentary seat although the state itself fell to PH for the first time.

In Johor, some voters who spoke to MalaysiaNow were lukewarm about DAP, which was previously seen as commanding the undivided support of the Chinese community.

Chan Lay, who will vote in the state constituency of Perling this Saturday, said he no longer trusted DAP as many of its promises were not fulfilled.

“They lied about the Foon Yew school issue, and about abolishing toll,” the 66-year-old said.

He was referring to the Foon Yew High School which became the subject of controversy after a visit by former prime minister Najib Razak as part of his campaign for the Johor election.

DAP’s Damansara MP Tony Pua had lashed out at the school for welcoming Najib who was convicted of corruption in 2020, sentenced to 12 years’ jail and fined RM210 million.

Chan, who makes a living selling cakes and kuih around the Perling area, said he had voted for PH in 2018. This time, though, he said he was more inclined to support BN.

Political analyst Oh Ei Sun said such sentiments remained despite the passing of two years since PH had held administrative control.

“There is undeniably a huge chunk of Chinese voters who are disenchanted or disappointed with DAP and PH for not having delivered on some long standing demands,” Oh, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, told MalaysiaNow.

Nevertheless, he said not many were prepared to throw their support behind either BN or Perikatan Nasional (PN) instead. As a result, he said, most of these would choose to sit out the state election instead of turning out to vote.

But political fatigue is not the only challenge in Johor for PH and DAP.

Another resident in Perling who wished to be known as Heng said he was still undecided about whether to head to the polling centre given the high number of Covid-19 infections reported each day.

However, he said he would continue to support DAP because of the corruption issues surrounding BN.

“The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission would act swiftly if DAP politicians are involved in graft because BN still holds power at the federal level,” he said.

“So let’s give the government at the state level to the opposition.”

But while he still supports DAP, Heng said he does not trust Liew, the party’s leader in Johor, whom he described as an outsider.

Liew lost the Ayer Hitam seat to Wee at GE14 with a margin of only 303 votes.

While he retained his post of DAP chairman in Johor, he was also embroiled in fights between different camps in the state chapter.

He previously warned that infighting would affect DAP’s chances at the ballot box in Johor.

In the town of Yong Peng, Chinese sentiments were veiled with most unwilling to discuss political matters with outsiders.

But a low turnout is likely to affect DAP’s prospects, as was the case in Melaka.

Ong, a mechanic in the town who spoke to MalaysiaNow, said he would not go out to vote on Saturday.

Describing this as a “silent protest”, Oh said such voters would be targeted by parties like Warisan and Muda who offer themselves as a third force.

Najib meanwhile is favoured by large businesses while SMEs are split between BN and DAP.

MCA is contesting 15 seats in Johor while DAP is fielding candidates in 14. This will see clashes in all of the seats involved except for Puteri Wangsa where DAP is giving way to the candidate from Muda.

PN meanwhile is fighting for a share of the Chinese vote as well, with its chairman Muhyiddin Yassin attempting in a recent speech to allay concerns over Islamist party PAS.

Muhyiddin, who was prime minister from March 2020 to August 2021, said PAS had not spoken of hudud at any point of his administration.

But Oh said that PN’s Chinese component party Gerakan had yet to win over the community’s vote, saying it would have to work hard to prove itself as a viable option.